Caregiver & Elder Care News
Too Many Seniors Fail to Heed Warning of Exposure to Hot Summer Weather
National Institute on Aging provides advice about
hyperthermia that may save your life or someone you care for elderly
men the most in danger of death
July 3, 2014 Senior citizens, especially those
with chronic medical conditions, should stay indoors, preferably with
air conditioning, or at least a fan, on hot and humid summer days, warns
the National Institute on Aging (NIA), which suggests specific actions
seniors can take to avoid deadly hyperthermia. About 1,500 in the U.S.
can be expected to die from heat-related problems this summer mostly
Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature
caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms in the body to
deal with the heat coming from the environment. Heat stroke, heat
syncope (sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat), heat
cramps, heat exhaustion and heat fatigue are common forms of
Seniors and even younger people can be at increased
risk for these conditions, depending on the combination of outside
temperature, their general health and individual lifestyle.
Living in housing without air conditioning, not
drinking enough fluids, not understanding how to respond to the weather
conditions, lack of mobility and access to transportation, overdressing
and visiting overcrowded places are all lifestyle factors that can
increase the risk for hyperthermia.
People without air conditioners should go to places
that do have air conditioning, such as senior centers, shopping malls,
movie theaters and libraries. Cooling centers, which may be set up by
local public health agencies, religious groups and social service
organizations in many communities, are another option.
The highest yearly total of
hypothermia-related deaths (1,536) was in 2010 and the lowest (1,058) in
2006. Approximately 67% of hypothermia-related deaths were among males.
The risk for hyperthermia may increase from:
Age-related changes to the skin such as poor
blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands
Being substantially overweight or underweight
Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as
any illness that causes general weakness or fever
High blood pressure or other health conditions
that require changes in diet. For example, people on salt-restricted
diets may be at increased risk. However, salt pills should not be used
without first consulting a physician.
Reduced perspiration, caused by medications
such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and certain heart and blood
Use of multiple medications. It is important,
however, to continue to take prescribed medication and discuss possible
problems with a physician.
Number of Hypothermia-Related
Deaths, by Sex
Statistics System, United States, 19992011 -
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR),
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The figure above shows
the number of hypothermia-related deaths, by sex, in the
United States during 1999-2011. From 1999 to 2011, a total
of 16,911 deaths in the United States, an average of 1,301
per year, were associated with exposure to excessive natural
cold. The highest yearly total of hypothermia-related deaths
(1,536) was in 2010 and the lowest (1,058) in 2006.
Approximately 67% of hypothermia-related deaths were among
Heat Stroke is a Killer
Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of
hyperthermia. It occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and is
unable to control its temperature. Heat stroke occurs when someones
body temperature increases significantly (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
and shows symptoms of the following: strong rapid pulse, lack of
sweating, dry flushed skin, mental status changes (like combativeness or
confusion), staggering, faintness or coma. Seek immediate emergency
medical attention for a person with any of these symptoms, especially an
If you suspect someone is suffering from a
Get the person out of the heat and into a
shady, air-conditioned or other cool place. Urge the person to lie down.
If you suspect heat stroke, call 911.
Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck,
armpits and/or groin. These are places where blood passes close to the
surface of the skin, and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
Help the individual to bathe or sponge off
with cool water.
If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids
such as water or fruit and vegetable juices, but avoid alcohol and
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) within the
Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services helps eligible households pay for home cooling
and heating costs. People interested in applying for assistance should
contact their local or state
For a free copy of the NIAs AgePage on
English or in
or contact the NIA Information Center at 1-800-222-2225.
The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and
conducting research on aging and the medical, social, and behavioral
issues of older people. The Institutes broad scientific program seeks
to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active
years of life. For more information on research, health and aging, go to
National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's
medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a
component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is
the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical,
and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes,
treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more
information about NIH and its programs, visit
American Red Cross Tips to Beat the Heat