Seniors: How to Stay Safe in the Heat

Seniors need to take special care to keep hydrated
elderly woman in pool

The Senior Games are a summertime showcase for older athletes. They know, being both athletes and seniors, for them heat exposure can be especially dangerous. 

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When the heat kicks in, older people are more at risk than others. Geriatrician Ronan Factora, MD, says seniors are simply more susceptible to dehydration when it gets hot.

 “What happens with normal aging is that you actually have less water in your body and you’re more at risk for dehydration,” says Dr. Factora. “Elderly individuals also don’t sweat as much, so they’re more likely to develop a higher temperature, hyperthermia and heat stroke.”



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Signs of heat-related trouble

Dr. Factora says elderly people should watch out for these signs of dehydration and other heat-related trouble:

  • Dizziness.
  • Weakness.
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Muscle cramps.

What to do if you or someone else experiences these symptoms

If you or someone else experiences these symptoms, emergency medicine physician Thomas Waters, MD, says you should immediately:

  • Move to shade or an air-conditioned room immediately.
  • Hydrate with water or a sports beverage.
  • Loosen or remove any heavy clothing.
  • Cool off with ice packs or a cold wet cloth.

If there is a major mood change to irritability, confusion or disorientation, seek medical attention immediately, says Dr. Waters.

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How to prevent heat-related events

Dr. Factora says the best way for an elderly person to prevent a heat-related event is to drink plenty of fluids.

Make sure that you drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day on a regular basis, says Dr. Factora — especially If the temperature is higher, you’re spending a lot of time outdoors or if the air conditioner is not on.

Dr. Waters also suggests following these preventive tips:

  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
  • Take frequent breaks from the heat.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully, being mindful of the hottest times of day.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down after being in the heat.

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