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Elderly At High Risk For Heat-Related Illness

Temperatures are starting to rise and so is the concern for heat-related illnesses. As KSMU’s Katie Easley reports some people are more-susceptible to the heat than others.

Heat-related illnesses can affect you at any age. However, Patty Davis, the director of nursing at Ravenwood Assisted Living, says the elderly have a harder time beating the heat.

Davis says, “It dehydrates them very quickly. When they get hot their body temperature doesn’t regulate as quickly as a younger person does. So they sweat more and get dehydrated faster.”

According to Davis, raising awareness on how to prevent heat-related illness can cut down on the number of deaths caused by it.

Davis says, “They need to increase their fluid intake, they need a lot more water than they are used to drinking. Then of course wear a hat, long sleeves, and things like that when they do have to be out in the sun.”

Davis also says that certain medications can increase dehydration and make a person’s skin more sensitive to the sun. She says it’s important to know what medications a senior is taking and what extra precautions are necessary during summer.

Davis says signs that may indicate the onset of a heat related illness are: fatigue, becoming lethargic, showing a decrease in response time, and thirst. Davis says when she sees these signs in a resident at her facility she acts immediately.

“Our first objective is to bring the fluid level back up so they aren’t going into shock. We want to increase the fluids, increase the salt, and increase the coolness,” Davis said.

Children are also more susceptible to heat related illnesses. However, all age groups can experience heatstroke, dehydration, and heat exhaustion, and should take precautions. Those steps include limiting exposure to the heat, drinking plenty of water, and protecting your body from the sun.

For KSMU News, I’m Katie Easley.