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Climate Temperature Troubles With Older Adults: What You Need to Know
Body Temperature Regulation
- Humidity hinders the cooling process because perspiration does not evaporate as quickly.
- Conditions that alter blood circulation, like heart disease, high blood pressure and blood vessel disease have an impact on temperature control.
- Diuretics, or water pills, increase the risk of dehydration.
The Dangers of Extreme Heat
- Heat cramps—These are painful muscle spasms after strenuous activity; they can also be a sign of heat exhaustion .
- Heat exhaustion—This occurs when the body becomes too hot. Thirst, weakness, fatigue, nausea, and profuse sweating serve as warnings. If treatment is delayed, heat exhaustion can advance to deadly heat stroke.
- Heat stroke—Symptoms of this potentially lethal rise in body temperature include confusion, bizarre behaviors, a strong, rapid pulse, dry, flushed skin with no sweat, and headache or nausea.
- Moving to a cool, shady place
- Offering cool liquids, if able to swallow
- Immersing the person in ice water or applying ice-cold towels on the person's body, particularly to the head, trunk, and extremities
- Calling for medical help
Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
- Keep your house cool by using an air conditioner.
- If you do not have air conditioning, cover windows to block sunlight. Also, visit places that are air conditioned, like city-run cooling centers, the mall, or the library.
- Do not go out during the hottest part of the day.
- Wear white, short-sleeve, loose-fitting, natural-fiber clothing.
- Wear a wide-brim hat outside to provide shade.
- Take a cool shower.
- Cook with the microwave rather than the oven or stove.
- Pace your activities.
The Dangers of Extreme Cold
Preventing Cold-Related Illnesses
When you are home:
- Keep the heat on.
- Wear multiple layers, including long underwear.
- Use extra blankets.
When you are going out:
- Wear gloves, a hat, and several layers.
- Plan your trips wisely. Stay indoors on cold, windy days.
Be Prepared for Temperature Changes
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
National Institute of Health—Senior Health http://nihseniorhealth.gov
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
Bouchama A, Knochel JP. Heat stroke. N Engl J Med. 2002; 346:1978.
Bross MH, Nash BT, Carlton FB. Heat emergencies. Am Fam Physician. 1994; 50:389.
Extreme heat: a prevention guide to promote your personal health and safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat%5Fguide.asp. Updated July 31, 2009. Accessed March 4, 2014.
Heat exhaustion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 22, 2013. Accessed March 4, 2014.
Hyperthermia: too hot for your health. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/hyperthermia. Updated February 13, 2014. Accessed March 4, 2014.
Hypothermia: a cold weather hazard. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2011/02/hypothermia-cold-weather-hazard. Published February 2, 2011. Accessed March 4, 2014.
Hyperthermia: a hot weather hazard for older people. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2011/02/hypothermia-cold-weather-hazard. Published February 13, 2014. Accessed March 4, 2014.
Hypothermia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 19, 2012. Accessed March 4, 2014.
Ranhoff AH. Accidental hypothermia in the elderly. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2000; 59:255.
Smith JE. Cooling methods used in the treatment of exertional heat illness. Br J Sports Med. 2005;39(8):503-507.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014
- Update Date: 03/04/2014