As the temperatures rise, so do heat-related health problems within elderly populations. If you have an elderly loved one that enjoys spending time outdoors during the summer months, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke in seniors.
While heatstroke can be deadly for anyone of any age, it is particularly fast-acting among elderly people. Of course, prevention is the best thing when it comes to keeping seniors safe in hot weather, but being able to recognize when someone is in trouble can be valuable information for saving their lives.
What Is Heatstroke?
Heatstroke, also known as sunstroke, is a result of exposure to high temperatures combined with dehydration. It happens when the body is unable to cool itself down and internal temperatures have reached dangerous levels. The brain and other internal organs can be seriously damaged in a heatstroke and for seniors, it can be fatal.
Seniors have a more difficult time with the body self-regulating its temperature—it doesn’t do so as efficiently or as quickly as it once did. The result is that heatstroke can happen much more quickly and quietly in seniors than in adults of other ages. When seniors experience the symptoms of heatstroke, family caregivers and home care assistants need to act quickly to get them to a medical facility.
5 Symptoms of Heatstroke in Seniors
Heatstroke happens after heat exhaustion, which is the body’s desperate attempt to cool itself down.
1. Lack of Sweating
The first thing the body does when it heats up is to trigger sweating. The evaporation of moisture on the skin helps cool itself down. When seniors are not sweating, but have red, dry and hot skin that’s a clear sign they are suffering from heatstroke.
2. Rapid Heartbeat and Breathing
As the elderly person’s body goes into overdrive to cool itself, they will experience rapid heartbeat and quick, shallow breaths. The elderly person may appear as if they have just done something strenuous, but the reality is that their body is stressed from the heat.
3. Headaches and Dizziness
As an elderly person’s body combats heat-related challenges, it’s not unusual for them to feel dizzy and complain of headaches. This is often a result of dehydration as well as the shallow breathing and fast pulse they are experiencing. Vomiting and nausea often accompany heat strokes in seniors, so it’s another set of symptoms for family members to be aware of.
4. Muscle Cramps and Seizures
The elderly person suffering from a heatstroke may experience muscle cramps in the legs, back or torso as a result of the heatstroke. These are severely painful and can hinder them from getting out of the sun and into the shade. Seizures are definitely a sign that the body’s nervous system is shutting down and things are not looking good.
The most serious condition for seniors with heatstroke is when they go unconscious. This is an extremely difficult state to rouse them from and it can result in more serious and permanent damage to the body.
No matter what symptoms of heatstroke that an elderly loved one is experiencing, it’s important for family members or home care assistants to cool their body down as quickly as possible and get them to a hospital immediately for care.
If you or an aging loved one are considering homecare in Elsie, MI, please contact the caring staff at Seniors Helping Seniors of Lansing. Call today: 517-332-9953.