Florida Summers are always hot, but this year is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record. According to NPR, most of Florida was recently under a heat advisory as temperatures climbed to a ‘feels like’ temperature of 109 degrees. While being outside in this heat while unprepared could threaten anyone’s safety, people over the age of 65 are more prone to heat-related health concerns, especially if they don’t maintain an adequate level of hydration. Dehydration can sneak up on seniors fast, and it’s essential to know the warning signs of heat stress and dehydration.
Seniors, Dehydration, and Heat
The body’s reaction to heat, and its ability to regulate internal temperatures, is one of the many things about the body that changes as one ages. Your sweat rate increases to combat high outdoor temperatures, but sweating alone may not be enough to cool down your body. Additionally, when you sweat and don’t replenish that water, you run the risk of quickly dehydrating. According to the CDC, some of the risk factors that make older Americans more prone to heat stress include:
- Changes in body chemistry
- Chronic illnesses that weaken the body
- Prescription medications that alter bodily functions, like temperature control and sweat production
Extreme heat can leave someone more than just uncomfortable. In fact, even a short period – 20 minutes or less – is enough to put unprepared individuals in a dangerous situation. Potential issues caused by extreme heat and dehydration can include:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Heat cramps
- Swelling of joints and ankles
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stroke, a more severe condition that can cause someone to pass out and reach dangerously high internal temperatures
Not only can medical conditions and medication to treat these conditions increase the risk of heat stress in seniors, but those same conditions mean that the average senior’s body is less capable of functioning at a high level when additional heat stress symptoms are introduced. Headaches and nausea are never fun, but a younger person will likely be able to power through the symptoms and reach help before a senior can.
Combatting Florida Summer Heat
While we recommend avoiding the hottest parts of the day, everyone should still find time to get outside if possible. By taking precautions and knowing the early warning signs of heat stress and dehydration, you can venture outdoors to get much-needed exercise out in nature.
When trying to identify if someone is suffering from stress or dehydration, check to see if they:
- Have an extremely fast heart rate
- Have a dry mouth
- Are confused
- Have dry, burnt skin
- Have sunken eyes
Don’t leave the house without knowing the temperature forecast and preparing for any eventualities. Some of the ways seniors can beat the heat include:
- Proactively drinking ample amounts of water, even before you feel thirsty or dehydrated
- Resting in the shade when needed to recuperate energy and lower body temperatures
- Wearing clothing that facilitates airflow and protects from the Sun
- Wearing sunscreen to protect against sunburns and skin cancer
- Limit physical activity – don’t push your body as hard as you would on a cold day
- Go inside and seek medical attention at the first sign of any issues
If temperatures are too high to safely venture outdoors, staying inside for a day or two isn’t the end of the world. Always prioritize safety if you have suffered from high temperature stress or dehydration in the past.
A Banyan Residence is an assisted living and memory care facility in Venice, Florida. Our team is dedicated to the overall health and well-being of all our residents. Call us today to schedule a tour of our facility.