Recognizing the Signs of Heat-Related Illness and How to Respond


One of the joys of summer is being able to get outside and enjoy the warm sunshine and fresh air. It can be a wonderful time to picnic in the park, take a walk, go to a festival, or watch the grandkids play soccer or baseball. But as the temperature rises, this can also increase risk of heat-related illness, which can be serious if not properly treated. Adding to this risk is the fact as people age, they typically have a harder time regulating their body temperature, which means seniors may be more affected by the heat or cold.

It is important to recognize the signs of two major heat-related illnesses: heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Fainting
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Pale, cool, clammy skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting

If a loved one is showing these symptoms, quickly get them into the shade or a cooler place. Help them to take off any extra layers of clothing they may be wearing, and apply cool, wet cloths to their face, neck, and body. Give them a cold glass or bottle of water to drink as well. Make sure they’re not gulping it down, but rather taking small sips. If they do not appear to be getting better, their symptoms become worse, or they start throwing up, get medical help immediately.

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Hot, dry or damp skin
  • Temperature of 103°F or higher
  • Nausea
  • Fainting

Just like with heat exhaustion, move your aging parent to a cooler location and apply cool, wet compresses to help lower their body temperature. However, in this case, you do not want to give them anything to drink. Instead, call for medical assistance right away.

Tips for Spending Time Outdoors

To help reduce risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, try to avoid being outside during the hottest time of day, which is typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you must be outside, try to stay in the shade or find a place to periodically cool off. Bring along plenty of water to stay hydrated and don’t forget to keep sipping on water throughout the day, not just when you feel thirsty.

Help your senior to pick appropriate clothing as well that is lightweight and comprising light colors. Wearing a hat with a floppy brim can protect them from some of the intensity of the sun and also help prevent sunburn. Make sure to apply sunscreen before going out even if it is overcast or the sun doesn’t seem that bright.

An in-home caregiver can help your loved one prepare for outdoor activities by assisting them with selecting appropriate clothing and remembering to pack water, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. They can also accompany them on walks and activities as a companion while also being alert for any signs of heat-related illness. And when it’s too hot to go outside, an in-home caregiver can help with tasks around the home, playing games, or engaging in meaningful conversation. Get your aging parent the best In Home Care in Birmingham Alabama they need to age in place more safely and comfortably. Call Always Best Care of Birmingham at (205) 874-9730 to schedule a free consultation today.

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