Newswise — The hot weather prompts many people to flock indoors and crank up the air conditioner. It is especially necessary during these times to not overlook one population - the elderly.
Richard Allman, M.D., director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Aging, says there are age-related changes in body temperature control that put the elderly at risk when the temperatures rise.
"Other things putting older adults at risk is their fitness and function level, the number of chronic conditions they have and the number of medications they are taking," he says.
For those who can get around on their own, Allman suggests they stay indoors with the air conditioning on. If they don't have AC, try to find a local place to visit that will, for example: the library, a museum, church or a friend's house.
If a place with air conditioning cannot be found, then Allman advises to take cool baths/showers, wear minimal, loose-fitting clothing, and drink plenty of water (unless told to limit fluids by your doctor), while avoiding alcohol.
If there is a need to get out in the heat and be active, he says to drink even more water.
Too much time in the heat can cause big problems. Common symptoms of a heat-related illness can vary, but include: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting.
These symptoms can progress to heat stroke, and then body temperature will increase and sweating will stop. The pulse will be fast and the skin will be red, hot and dry.
Allman says this can be very dangerous territory for older adults, and enforces the idea that the elderly need to be watched closely during these extremely warm months.
"Friends or family should visit or check on them twice per day, and monitor for symptoms of heat stress. If they show any signs, medical assistance should be sought."