It is important for everyone, especially older adults and people with chronic medical conditions, to be aware of the dangers of hyperthermia or heat stroke.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has some tips to help mitigate some of the dangers.
Hyperthermia is when an individual’s internal body temperature is abnormally high due to the failure of the heart-regulating mechanisms in their body, which helps to regulate heat coming from the environment.
According to the NIA, common forms of hyperthermia include heat stroke, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat fatigue. People can be at increased risk for these conditions, depending on the combination of outside temperature, their general health and individual lifestyle.
The NIA notes that elder adults and individuals diagnosed with chronic medical conditions are most at risk for hyperthermia.
These individuals should stay indoors, preferably with air conditioning or at least a fan and air circulation, on hot and humid days, especially when air pollution is in effect.
Living in a house without air conditioning, not drinking enough fluids, not understanding how to respond to weather conditions, lack of mobility and access to transportation, overdressing and visiting overcrowded places are all lifestyle factors that can increase the risk for hyperthermia, according to the NIA.
The risk of hyperthermia may also increase from:
- Age-related changes to the skin – such as poor circulation and inefficient sweat glands
- Alcohol use
- Being significantly overweight or underweight
- Diagnosed with illnesses that may cause general weakness or fever – such as heart, lung and kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- Use of multiple medications
Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia and occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its internal temperature. It occurs when someone’s body temperature is above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (or 40 degrees Celsius) and shows symptoms of the following: strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushing skin, mental status change, staggering, faintness or coma.
Seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with any of these symptoms, especially an older adult or someone with a chronic medical condition.
The NIA provides a list of tips if you suspect someone suffering from a heat-related illness:
- Get the person out of the sun and into a shady, air-conditioned area
- Encourage them to lie down
- If you suspect heat stroke, call 911
- Apply a cold compress to the wrist, neck, armpits and/or groin
- Help the individual to bathe or sponge off with cool water
- If the person can swallow safely, offer them water, or fruit and vegetable juices
Summertime can bring upon health conditions such as hyperthermia or heat stroke, which can result in a serious illness or even fatality. While no one wants to think about the unknown, preparing for it can leave one at ease if an event were to happen. You need to be aware of the dangers of hyperthermia or heat stroke.
Purchasing a life insurance policy this summer could help protect your loved one if something were to happen to you. In addition, life insurance policies are currently at an industry all-time low, which makes getting a policy even more affordable.