Keeping seniors safe in high heat

Hot, humid weather is uncomfortable for all of us, but it can be downright dangerous for seniors.

According to Cleveland Clinic’s Ronan Factora, M.D., people age 65 and older are much more susceptible to heat-related problems.

“When you get older you don’t have as much total body water, therefore it’s a lot easier for you to get dehydrated,” he said. “It’s also a lot more difficult when you’re older to regulate your body temperature, because of problems with insulation and the way that your body actually controls the blood vessels to get rid of extra heat.”

Dr. Factora recommends paying attention to the weather, especially the relative humidity and dew point.

He said it’s important for older people to know that when temperature and dew point are high, sweating won’t cool the body as well.

On hot, humid days he said seniors should drink plenty of water. Most people should drink eight-ounce glasses of water up to eight times each day.

When outside, he recommends wearing loose-fitting, lightweight clothing and a sun hat.

In addition, older people should avoid mid-day heat and limit time outdoors when temperatures soar.

When resting indoors, air conditioning is recommended, when possible.

Dr. Factora said certain medical conditions and some medications can make people even more prone to heat-related illness, so it’s important to be aware of those additional risk factors.

During a heat wave, he said it’s important to keep tabs on seniors.

“Be attentive to neighbors and family members who are older who do spend a lot of time outdoors,” said Dr. Factora. “Make sure that they’re doing okay; check up on them; make sure they’re drinking water. You want to be able to enjoy the time outside, but just enjoy it in a safer fashion.”

Anyone concerned about family or friends who seem lethargic, sleepy or confused after spending time in the heat should take them to the emergency department.