Older Adults are more vulnerable to heat stress because they do not adjust as well as younger people to sudden changes in temperature. They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat or to be taking prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.
Exposure to high temperatures can increase the risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. These heat-related illnesses can be dangerous or life-threatening.
Follow these tips to help protect yourself and other older adults from heat illness:
Have an Extreme Heat Plan.
Keep an eye on weather forecasts and heat advisories so you know when extreme heat is coming and how long it will last. Drink more water than usual throughout the day and wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Create your personalized extreme heat plan.
Know the Signs!
Heat exhaustion signs include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and headache. Heat stroke symptoms include a fever of 103 degrees F or higher, confusion, and loss of consciousness. If you are suffering from heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately.
Have Family, Friends, or Neighbors Check in on You During Extreme Heat Events.
Know where your local cooling center is located and where to find transportation. Set your A/C to 75—80 degrees F. If air conditioning isn’t available, visit spaces with air-conditioning, like a cooling center, library, community center or shopping center. For more tips, see below.
Check Your Meds.
Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to see if any of your medications affect your body’s ability to regulate temperature.
Save the To-Do List for Later.
Avoid being outside in the direct heat for a long time, especially when the sun’s rays are strongest, between 10am and 4pm. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as those beverages can dehydrate you further.
Keep These Other Helpful Tips in Mind
- Do you use any medical devices (respirators, power wheelchairs, dialysis machines, etc.) that are battery operated or require electricity? Power outages during extreme heat can threaten your mobility and health. Have a backup plan. The FDA offers this Home Use Devices Booklet: How to Prepare for and Handle Power Outages for Medical Devices that Require Electricity (PDF – 5.1MB).
- If you’re unable to travel to or find an air-conditioned space, consider the following at home:
- Close windows, doors, shades, and curtains to prevent hot air and sunlight from entering during the hottest parts of the day.
- If air conditioning isn’t available, take extra precautions. The use of fans can help mitigate some heat, but high temperatures without humidity can make fans ineffective in properly cooling your body.
- Wet a towel with cool water and place it on the back of your neck. Light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made of natural fabrics also help.
- Take a cool shower or bath to help reduce body temperature and provide relief from the heat.
For more information, visit the Department of Aging website.