How does the summer heat affect older people?

Jul 31 , 2021


Reinaldo Garcia

How does the summer heat affect older people?

As we age, changes occur in our body that make us suffer more and adapt worse to sudden changes in temperature, older adults present changes with physiological aging that affect the thermoregulatory center, modifying the perception of body temperature. Likewise, there are changes in the perception of the sensation of thirst favoring a lower intake of fluids. These changes are compounded by the fact that, due to some chronic pathologies, older adults have to take medications that affect the body's ability to control its temperature or perspiration. One of them are diuretics, which makes them more prone to both dehydration and heat stroke.

What signs to watch out for?

The signs of possible hyperthermia or heat stroke are common to all ages, and are basically headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, chills, red and dry skin, muscle cramps in the arms, legs or belly. The problem is that, during the elderly, in some situations the symptoms may go unnoticed or not be associated with the presence of hyperthermia. Thus, the sensation of a dry and pasty mouth may not be reported by a patient with cognitive impairment or other symptoms such as disorientation, confusion or not sweating in the face of high temperatures may go unnoticed.

How to act in case of suspected hyperthermia?

• Place the adult lying down with the legs raised and in a cool and ventilated place.
• If able to drink, offer liquids in small sips.
• Try to control the temperature by putting cool cloths on the neck, forehead and wrists.

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