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Climate Temperature Troubles With Older Adults: What You Need to Know
Body Temperature Regulation
- Humidity hinders the cooling process because perspiration does not evaporate as quickly.
- Conditions that alter blood circulation, like high blood pressure have an impact on temperature control.
- Diuretics or water pills increase the risk of dehydration.
The Dangers of Extreme Heat
- Heat cramps—These are painful muscle spasms after strenuous activity; they can also be a sign of heat exhaustion.
- Heat exhaustion—This occurs when the body becomes too hot. Thirst, weakness, fatigue, nausea, and profuse sweating serve as warnings. If treatment is delayed, heat exhaustion can advance to deadly heat stroke.
- Heat stroke—Symptoms of this potentially lethal rise in body temperature include confusion, bizarre behaviors, a strong, rapid pulse, dry, flushed skin with no sweat, and headache or nausea.
- Moving to a cool, shady place
- Offering cool liquids, if able to swallow
- Immersing the person in ice water or applying ice-cold towels on the person's body
- Calling for medical help
Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
- Keep your house cool by using an air conditioner.
- If you do not have air conditioning, cover windows to block sunlight. Also, visit places that are air conditioned, like the senior center, the mall, or the library.
- Wear white, short-sleeve, loose-fitting, natural-fiber clothing.
- Wear a wide-brim hat outside to provide shade.
- Take a cool shower.
- Cook with the microwave rather than the oven or stove.
- Do not go out during the hottest part of the day.
- Pace your activities.
- Ask a friend or relative to check on you twice daily.
The Dangers of Extreme Cold
Preventing Cold-Related Illnesses
- When you are home:
- Keep the heat on.
- Wear multiple layers, including long underwear.
- Use extra blankets.
- When you are going out:
- Wear gloves, a hat, and several layers.
- Plan your trip wisely. Stay indoors on cold, windy days.
Be Prepared for Temperature Changes
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/
National Institute of Health—Senior Health http://nihseniorhealth.gov/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/
Bouchama A, Knochel JP. Heat stroke. N Engl J Med. 2002; 346:1978.
Bross MH, Nash BT, Carlton FB. Heat emergencies. Am Fam Physician. 1994; 50:389.
Extreme heat: a prevention guide to promote your personal health and safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat%5Fguide.asp. Updated July 31, 2009. Accessed May 10, 2012.
Heat exhaustion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated August 30, 2011. Accessed May 10, 2012.
Heat-related illnesses and deaths. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/epo/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4822a2.htm.
Hyperthermia: too hot for your health. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/hyperthermia-too-hot-your-health. Updated April 25, 2012. Accessed May 23, 2012.
Hypothermia: a cold weather hazard. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2011/02/hypothermia-cold-weather-hazard. Updated May 15, 2012. Accessed May 23, 2012.
Hyperthermia: a hot weather hazard for older people. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nih.gov/NIA/health/agepages/hyperthe.htm.
Hypothermia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated October 3, 2011. Accessed May 10, 2012.
Ranhoff AH. Accidental hypothermia in the elderly. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2000; 59:255.
Smith JE. Cooling methods used in the treatment of exertional heat illness. Br J Sports Med. 2005;39(8):503-507.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2012
- Update Date: 05/23/2012