At LeadingAge New Jersey, we are hunkering down for the dog days of summer. Seniors are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons. Older adults do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. They are also more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. They may also take prescription medicines that impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.
Heat stress can quickly become heat stroke, which is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Warning signs vary but may include the following:
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- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache