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Senior Health

Hot Weather and the Elderly

08/02/2011

Question:

In the summer whenever there is hot weather they always say to check on seniors, people living alone, and people without air conditioning. I am all of the above. How do I know when hot weather is dangerous? I have never lived in a house with air conditioning, but I do have fans. At night I open all the windows and set a large fan in one window blowing the hot air out. It sucks the cool night air in throughout the house so it is quite pleasant by morning. Then I close up the house and cover all the windows during the day. It usually doesn`t get any hotter than about 80 or 85 degrees during the day even when it is in the 90s or near 100 outside. Is this dangerous? I drink plenty of water. This is how my parents lived and how their parents lived, minus the fan and none of them died of the heat.

Answer:

You ask a very important question. Older people (65 yrs +) are more prone to heat stress than younger for several reasons:

Due to aging natural aging, older people do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.

They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.

They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

Air conditioning improves body comfort and safety during extreme hot weather. However, your note indicates you have lived with hot weather without air conditioning most of your life and are probably accustomed to it. However, there are a few things you need to consider to reduce the danger of over heating in extreme hot summer weather whether indoors or outside. Experts at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest the following:
These suggestions probably include many of the activities you are currently doing to keep your body from over heating but, just in case, I'm including them to increase your safety in hot weather.

If you experience headache, confusion, dizziness, or nausea during extreme hot weather, it could be a sign of a heat-related illness and you will need to get out of the heat, cool your body down and rest.

Hopefully, this information is helpful.

For more information:

Go to the Senior Health health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN
Associate Professor Emerita
Associate Director of the
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati