Older adults tend to be more vulnerable than younger adults in a number of ways, one of which is in their reaction to intense heat.
Given the increase in extreme weather events in recent years, an article that we published a few years back, “Heatstroke in Older Adults” (free until September 1), is as timely now as ever. A high percentage of heat-related deaths in the U.S. occur among people who are 65 or older. Here are some of the reasons:
Older adults’ normal temperature-regulating processes may be impaired by illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease or by medications such as vasoconstrictors or diuretics, leaving them more vulnerable to heat exhaustion, which can progress to heatstroke, a far more dangerous condition. Those who are immobilized or suffer from disorientation secondary to dementia may fail to recognize dangerous symptoms or to drink appropriate types and amounts of fluids or move to a cooler location. Isolation, which is also frequently associated with heat injury, is common among older adults, particularly in cities, which are more susceptible to extreme heat waves because they create ‘heat islands,’ where surface and air temperatures are as much as 10°F higher than those in surrounding areas.
This short article gives nurses essential information on:
- the differences in symptoms and treatment between heat exhaustion and heatstroke
- the two types of heatstroke (exertional and classic)
- the various risk factors for heat exhaustion and heatstroke in older adults
- prevention strategies and public health resources
We hope you find the article helpful.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor