Heatstroke is a dangerous condition that happens when a person’s body is unable to regulate its internal temperature. The result is that someone is not able to cool down naturally via sweating and it can cause a lot of distress, health problems and in some cases it can be fatal. Seniors are extremely vulnerable to heatstroke, so family caregivers must take the time to learn everything they can about what causes it, what the symptoms are and how to prevent it in their aging loved ones.
What is Heatstroke?
Heatstroke is when someone is experiencing extremely high body temperatures, above 104°F and unable to cool down. It happens when the surrounding temperatures are quite warm and people are unable to keep cool. With heatstroke, the brain and organs begin to shut down, and without immediate medical attention, there can be permanent disability or even death.
Seniors have a higher risk of developing heat exhaustion and heat stroke because they have a lot of circumstances, many that are age-related, that make it harder for their bodies to control their own internal temperatures. Aging skin doesn’t produce as much sweat and seniors don’t react well to rapid temperature changes. Certain medications can affect internal regulations as well such as medicine for blood pressure, heart conditions, allergies and more. Many medications also lead to dehydration, which can usher in a heatstroke quickly. Heatstroke is a very serious condition and affects many seniors each year.
What are the Symptoms of Heatstroke?
The symptoms of heatstroke, and a milder condition known as heat exhaustion, are easy to identify once observers know what to look for. For heat exhaustion, the elderly person may be sweating profusely, but with heat stroke, they lose the ability to sweat and the skin becomes red, hot and dry. Both conditions also cause the elderly to have a rapid pulse, headaches, rapid breathing, dizziness, and nausea. Other symptoms of heatstroke include disorientation and confusion, muscle cramps, vomiting and even slipping into unconsciousness.
Because so many of these symptoms can also indicate other medical conditions, it’s important for family members, senior care aides and family caregivers to look for all possible causes and act accordingly. It’s important to cool the elderly person down as quickly as possible while waiting for medical help to arrive. They should be moved to a cool or shady location, given plenty of water to drink and have cool wet cloths placed on their face, neck, arms, back and legs. Fanning their wet limbs can help with evaporation to help them cool down. Always get elderly people suffering with heatstroke to a medical facility as soon as possible.
How Can Heatstroke Be Prevented?
Heatstroke is quite preventable with the right precautions. Make sure the elderly person is dressed in lightweight loose clothing and has plenty of water to drink before and during the outside event. Handheld fans are helpful for seniors to cool down as well. Because many family caregivers use moistened hand wipes as part of their senior care travel gear, they can wet the arms and neck of their elderly loved one and let that evaporate, keeping them cooler. Never let an aging loved one sit directly in the sun or in a hot car for long. With proper care and attention, elderly people can enjoy the outdoors during the summer months and avoid a dangerous and sometimes deadly heatstroke.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Evergreen, CO, please contact the caring staff at SYNERGY HomeCare West Denver. Call today: (720) 263-6060.