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Heat Exhaustion in the Elderly

Though social distancing is still the best choice for staying safe this summer, many of Citrus Park seniors are opting for outdoor recreation activities. And with the abundance of some of the country’s most beautiful beaches practically in our backyard, spending time outside in our part of Florida is almost effortless.

But before you head out on the ferry to Caladesi Island State Park or go beachcombing on the snow-white sand at Fort De Soto Park, it’s important for seniors to prepare properly to avoid exhaustion from the summer heat. 

What Is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a health condition caused by overexposure to high temperatures that results in your body overheating. Heat exhaustion is particularly concerning for seniors. People 65 or older are at higher risk of developing the condition because of underlying health conditions or side effects from certain medications. 

Common medications that contribute to the risk of heat exhaustion include those used to treat heart and blood pressure issues, such as diuretics, beta blockers, and antihistamines used to treat allergies.

Know the Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion in Seniors

Symptoms to watch for that may indicate that you or a companion are experiencing heat exhaustion include:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Pale, clammy skin and goosebumps even in the heat
  • Headache
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Confusion 
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Tips to Avoid Heat Exhaustion

If you are going to be outside for any length of time, follow these tips to stay safe:

Dress for the weather

Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing will allow your body to cool properly. Overdressing or wearing thick, nonbreathable fabrics can cause overheating.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids like water and sports drinks. Avoid alcohol and highly caffeinated drinks because they tend to cause dehydration. 

Protect your skin

Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Reapply regularly, especially after swimming. Broad-brimmed sun hats, sunglasses, and umbrellas are also a great choice for additional skin protection, but they don’t replace sunscreen!

Avoid the hottest part of the day

Plan an activity indoors between the hours of noon and 4 p.m. The Florida heat is most intense during this time, so plan outdoor activities early in the morning or in the evening when possible. If you have to be out in the heat of the day, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and take frequent rests in a shady or air-conditioned location. 

Know your risk factors

Be aware of how the medicines you take may contribute to your risk of heat exhaustion. If you have suffered a heat-related illness in the past, you are at a higher risk of developing another. Ask your doctor whether any existing health conditions may also increase your sensitivity to heat.

How to Treat Heat Exhaustion in Seniors

If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, take action quickly to avoid more serious heat-related health issues, such as heatstroke. Get out of the heat immediately and sit in an air-conditioned building or vehicle if you can. If you can’t get inside, find a shady spot.

Loosen or remove any tight-fitting or unnecessary clothing and apply an ice pack or cool compress to your skin. If symptoms persist after 15 minutes, call for emergency medical help.

Now that you know how to recognize and avoid heat exhaustion, you may want to check out some of these other outdoor recreation opportunities near Citrus Park, such as ZooTampa, a senior-friendly local park, or one of these world-class golf courses

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Amanda Grau

About the Author: Amanda Grau

I fell in love with the Senior population through my passion for volunteer work over ten years ago. I turned my passion into a full-time job, which to this day I will never consider work. Not only do I educate families and residents regarding Senior Living options but they continue to teach me something new each day.