Seniors are particularly susceptible to serious health complications from hot weather, including heat exhaustion, heatstroke, sunburns and dehydration. The Health Care Council of Illinois, an association of nursing-home professionals, provides these tips for protecting seniors from the effects of extreme heat and humidity.

  • Use an air conditioner to keep rooms cool. If air conditioning is unavailable, open windows on opposite ends of the house or building to cross-ventilate and increase air flow.

• Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that allows the body to release heat.

• Wear sun block, a hat and sunglasses outside.

• Drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic liquids during the hot summer months to make up for the loss of fluids from sweat.  

Everyone should be aware of very dangerous heat-related illnesses:

• Heat exhaustion is produced by the loss of normal fluids and salts in the body. It results from exposure to heat, either indoors or outdoors. Some of the common symptoms of heat exhaustion include cool, clammy skin; a body temperature of up to 103 degrees; weak, rapid pulse; shallow and quiet respirations; and muscles that may be tense or contracted.

Treatment includes keeping the individual quiet, resting in a cool place and increasing intake of cool, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated fluids. Consult a physician immediately if you believe an elder may be suffering from heat exhaustion.

• Heatstroke is a more serious heat-
related illness resulting from direct exposure to high temperatures or the sun. Heatstroke commonly affects individuals who are debilitated or fatigued. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, nausea, spots before the eyes, ringing in the ears, bright red dry skin, rapid, strong pulse, and a body temperature of more than 103 degrees.

Treatment may include cooling off the individual, removing clothing, applying cool cloths, and giving him or her a sponge bath. Direct the individual to the nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible, if any of these symptoms occur.