Summer heat – no friend to older adults

It’s that time, the dogs days of summer. The name came from the ancient Romans, who thought the sun had a little extra help this time of year.

thermometer in summer heat“The name came about because they associated the hottest days of summer with the star Sirius. Sirius was known as the “Dog Star” because it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog).

Sirius is so bright that the ancient Romans thought it radiated extra heat toward Earth. During the summer, when Sirius rises and sets with the Sun, they thought Sirius added heat to the Sun’s heat to cause hotter summer temperatures.”  – from Wonderopolis

senior sitting in the shadeWhile the sun isn’t actually getting extra help right now, it can feel like it, especially to older adults. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), warn that age and certain lifestyle issues increase the likelihood of heat-related illnesses. Conditions like high blood pressure and heart, lung, and kidney disease can make one more susceptible, as can certain medications.

For the many of us who live with and care for older adults, it is particularly important to learn both the signs and remedies of heat-related illness.

Heat exhaustion can come on quickly and signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, feeling tired and weak, headaches and nausea. Heat stroke is one common form of hyperthermia (heat-related illness) and someone with any of the following symptoms should get immediate medical attention:

  • significant increase in body temperature (greater than 104 F)
  • changes in mental status (like confusion or combativeness)
  • strong rapid pulse
  • lack of sweating
  • dry flushed skin
  • feeling faint
  • staggering or coma

What to do if you see signs of heat-related illness:

  • Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned or other cool place. Urge them to lie down.
  • If you suspect heat stroke, call 911.
  • Encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water if it is safe to do so.
  • Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits, and/or groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin, and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
  • If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Caregivers, please take special care and be on the lookout for hyperthermia this summer. Get informed, check in with your loved one every day and, when in doubt, get help. Here’s to a relaxing and fun summer for all ages, even during the dog days.

For more information:

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/advice-older-people-staying-safe-hot-weather

http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/older-adults-heat.asp

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/basics/risk-factors/con-20033366