Special precautions needed to protect elderly from extreme heat

July 17, 2013 

Hot weather can be risky for anyone, but it is especially dangerous for older adults. Very hot weather affects older people more often than younger people. Reserves of liquid in the body are used up more quickly in older people. As people age, they lose a layer of fat, which makes it harder for the body to control its temperature. People might not even feel hot or may lose the ability to sweat.

Additional risk factors for older people include heart conditions, alcohol consumption and being overweight

Certain medications including tranquilizers, heart drugs, antihistamines, diuretics and antidepressants can affect the response to extreme heat. Contact a doctor or pharmacist for information.

People who experience very heavy sweating, painful spasms in their legs and abdomen, weakness, becoming very pale, fainting, breathing problems and, finally, not sweating at all may be suffering from heat stroke or other heat-related illness. Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

If you have older friends, neighbors or family members, check to be sure that they are cool enough and that they are well-hydrated.

— Jane Taylor, Centre County Office of Aging

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