With Summer in full force, it is important to not only check in on older adults in the community, but to also be aware of medical emergencies that can arise due to extreme heat. One such medical emergency is Heat stroke. Below, is a guest blog post from a social work colleague Melody Wilding. Please share with those you know.
Signs of Heat Stroke in the Elderly
by Melody Wilding, LMSW
Summer is a fun, exciting time that affords older adults the opportunity to spend more time outdoors enjoying the weather. However, extreme summer temperatures can have deadly consequences for aging parents. Heat stroke, also known as sun stroke, is a medical emergency that is often fatal if not treated properly or promptly.
According to the National Weather Service, heat is the number one weather-related killer. On average, more than 1,500 people in the U.S. die each year from excessive heat — greater than annual number of deaths due to tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined.
Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia defined as a body temperature of 104 F (40 C) that results from prolonged exposure to extreme heat, often seen in conjunction with dehydration. As the body’s core temperature rises to dangerous levels, the nervous system function is comprised. Older adults and the elderly are particularly heat sensitive and more prone to heat stroke for several reasons. Risk factors include:
Naturally aging processes – As we get older, the body’s ability to regulate temperature changes. Older adults do not adjust as well as young people to fluctuations in temperature.
Prescription medications – Certain medications can impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature and perspiration.
Living with a chronic condition – The presence of a chronic condition such as heart disease, kidney disease, or lung disease can change the way a person responds to heat.
Sociodemographic factors – Seniors who live alone may ignore symptoms of heat stroke. Low-income elderly may be reluctant to run fans or air conditioner units during summer months to reduce costs.
While heat stroke is not the same as a brain-based stroke, it is a serious medical condition that results in a number of troubling symptoms, including:
Do you have any other information you believe is important to know about Heat stroke? Please share them below.
Melody Wilding, LMSW is a recognized expert on health care and technology and a published researcher. Melody has worked clinically in community-based and psychiatric settings and frequently speaks at national conferences about ways companies can leverage digital and social media to improve health care. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @MelodyWilding.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.