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Heat and humidity are on the rise in Knoxville and across much of the country. Though warmer temperatures may tempt many seniors to go outdoors and enjoy the summer, heat exhaustion is a real threat to older adults.

It’s important for seniors and their family members to keep an eye out for the telltale signs of heat exhaustion because it can lead to serious health risks. 

Seniors and Heat Stress

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), seniors are particularly prone to heat stress for several reasons:

  • Their bodies are slower to adjust to temperature changes.
  • Many older adults have chronic medical conditions that affect their body’s ability to regulate heat.
  • Seniors often take prescription medications that change how effectively the body controls its temperature.

Regardless of your health or fitness level, it’s important to take the summer heat seriously. Even people without medical conditions who aren’t on prescription medications can be susceptible to heat exhaustion. 

8 Signs of Heat Exhaustion

When you and your loved ones are spending time outdoors this summer, stay on the lookout for some of the early signs of heat exhaustion. These include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps

If heat exhaustion progresses, the symptoms may intensify to include:

  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting

Understanding Heatstroke

Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which is dangerous for people of all ages but can be especially harmful to seniors. If you or your family member is experiencing any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, they may be at risk of developing heatstroke, which in severe cases can be fatal. 

The symptoms of heatstroke can include:

  • Fainting
  • A sudden change in behavior
  • A strong, rapid pulse
  • A lack of sweating

If you or your loved one is experiencing these symptoms, it’s vital that you move quickly inside to cooler temperatures. Drink cold water and apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists and armpits. If possible, take a cool shower or bath to help get your body temperature down quickly.

If you suspect heatstroke, the National Institutes of Health recommends calling 911.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion

Because heat exhaustion can be dangerous to seniors, your best bet is to prevent it. When you plan to be outdoors, follow these tips:

  • Before your activity, get plenty of rest.
  • Schedule outdoors time strategically so you avoid the hottest parts of the day.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing that is light in color.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible.
  • Avoid strenuous activities.
  • Drink many iced beverages throughout your time in the heat. 

Of course, heat exhaustion can also happen indoors. As temperatures rise, stay cool inside with these tips:

  • Keep your air conditioning set to a comfortable level. 
  • Use ceiling and box fans to help circulate air.
  • Avoid using your stove or oven during the hottest parts of the day. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day — not only when you feel thirsty.

Alternative Activities

If you or a loved one is susceptible to heat stress, or if Knoxville is experiencing a particularly hot and humid day, consider staying indoors altogether. Besides the joys of air conditioning, staying indoors also offers plenty of fun activities, such as:

  • Exercise classes
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Arts and crafts 
  • Water aerobics 
  • Virtual travel 

At Arbor Terrace of Knoxville, the health and safety of our residents is always our top priority. During the summer, we offer a variety of senior-friendly activities to help residents stay active and engaged — and to beat the heat.

Interested in learning more? View our brochure to see the community features and events offered at Arbor Terrace of Knoxville.

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Karen Emerson

About the Author: Karen Emerson

Karen Emerson joined the Arbor Terrace of Knoxville team in March 2003 to work part-time in the Business Office. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of Business Management. Karen became the Executive Director in November 2015 and is a licensed Assisted Living Administrator. Her door is always open to assist residents, family members, and staff.

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