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Elderly at Risk for Heat Related Problems 

The elderly may be much more susceptible to heat-related problems due to a combination of age-related factors, according to experts in a recent article in the Health Day News (August 11, 2007).  According to information provided by the American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Health and Aging, older adults can't cool down as well as younger adults due to various age-related physical changes.  It is also believed that the elderly may not feel as hot when temperatures are actually very high, and may also be less likely to feel thirsty even when they are very close to being dehydrated according to the foundation’s report. 

These factors are believed to contribute to potentially serious health problems during extreme heat along with increased risk of death for the elderly. It is believed that in the United States, about 200 people die of health-related problems each year caused by high heat and humidity.  Most of these victims of heat related death are age 50 or older. 

Heart disease, diabetes and certain other diseases that are very common among the elderly can make it very difficult for older individuals to cope with high heat and humidity according to the foundation report.  These same concerns also include a number of drugs including allergy and sinus medications, water pills and medications for nerve problems and depression. 

It is probably good to take special precautionary measures when temperatures reach 90°F or above for elderly adults.  The American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Health and Aging also offered some hot weather safety tips for older adults: 

  • Turn on the air conditioner or go to a place that's air-conditioned, such as a shopping mall, grocery store, senior center, movie theatre, museum or library.

  • Fans are not sufficient in extremely hot weather.

  • Do not walk long distances, lift heavy objects, or do other strenuous activities.

  • Drink a lot of water and other clear drinks that do not contain alcohol or caffeine.

  • If your urine is a light yellow, you're probably drinking enough water.

  • If it's dark yellow, you should probably drink more water.

  • Take cool showers, baths, or sponge baths. 

  • Wear light-weight, light-colored, loose fitting clothing.

  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible.

  • If you go outside, wear a hat.

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate                                      

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