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Tips to Prevent Heat Illness

Woman drinking water

Summer’s high temperatures can induce serious heat illnesses. Older people tend to be more vulnerable to heat illnesses because they’re more likely to have chronic disease and be taking prescription medicines.

Heat illnesses are grouped under the term hyperthermia. The National Institute on Aging notes that most people who die from hyperthermia each year are over 50 years old. The most serious type of heat illness is heat stroke. Older individuals who reside in homes without air conditioning or fans are at the highest risk of heat stroke.

Signs of Heat Stroke
The following are signs and symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Body temperature over 104° F
  • Fainting
  • Dry flushed skin and a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
  • A change in behavior, such as, confusion, being grouchy or staggering
  • Not sweating even if it is hot

Steps You Can Take to Lower Your Risk of Heat-related Illness:

  • Make sure that you stay hydrated. Drink cool nonalcoholic beverages. It’s best to drink eight glasses every day.
  • Do your best to keep your home as cool as possible.
  • Limit your use of the oven.
  • If your home is hot, aim to spend at least 2 hours during mid-day in a place that offers air-conditioning, such as, the shopping mall, movies, a library, a senior center or a friend’s home.
  • If you need help getting to a cool place, ask a friend or relative. You also may be able to get this service through an area agency on aging (AAA), a religious group or a senior center. To find your local AAA, visit the Eldercare Locator.
  • If you have an air conditioner but can’t afford the electric bill, you may be able to get help from local resources. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program may offer assistance.

How to Protect Elderly Relatives and Neighbors

You can help older relatives and friends by visiting them at least twice a day. Also, watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. When you see them, encourage them to increase their fluid intake by drinking cool, nonalcoholic drinks.


These organizations offer information and resources related to health and aging:

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Eldercare Locator

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

National Institute on Aging Information Center