How to Identify and Treat Heat-Related Problems in the Elderly

Prolonged exposure to excessively high temperatures during the summer months can be extremely dangerous to the elderly. It has been estimated that – at least – 600 people die each year due to health complications caused by exposure to high temperatures and humidity levels.

The elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing heat-related problems. The elderly should be protected from temperatures in excess of 80°F. In this guide, you will be introduced to the most common heat-related issues in the elderly and how to assist those who develop the issues.


Dehydration – simply put – is a loss of water directly from the body. Signs and symptoms include becoming weak, developing a headache, experiencing muscle cramps, becoming dizzy, and being confused. Many may actually pass out/faint if they become dehydrated.

To assist one suffering from dehydration, provide them with either water or Gatorade. If the individual does not get better, call 911 immediately. If they get better but have been diagnosed with heart-related conditions and/or take diuretics, they should go to the doctor as soon as possible.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that develops due to dehydration and exposure to too much heat. If not treated properly, it could lead to the development of a heat stroke.

Signs and symptoms include either sweating heavily or not at all, cramps in the muscles, fatigue, weakness, becoming pale, experiencing cold, clammy skin, headache, becoming dizzy, weak pulse that is fast, nausea, vomiting, and/or fainting.

To treat, move to a cool place with shade. Drink fluids that are cool – water and drinks with added electrolytes are the best. If the individual has high blood pressure, heart problems, and associated conditions, call 911 immediately.

Heat Stroke

A heat stroke develops when there is a quick and dangerous increase of body temperature. It could happen quickly or over the course of several days. Signs and symptoms include a temperature of 104°F or higher, skin that is dry, red, and hot to the touch, a headache, a very fast pulse, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, confusion, and fainting.

To treat, start by calling 911. Then, take off heavy clothes or loosen the clothes. Place cool water on the body. Place soaked clothes on the neck, wrists, ankles, and/or armpits to reduce body temperature. See if fluids may be taken. If so, offer water or electrolyte sports drinks. If not, continue cooling the body.

Heat Syncope

This is when a person faints because of exposure to high temperatures. Signs and symptoms include dizziness, feeling unwell, and passing out. To treat, put the feet up while the person is lying down. Once they awaken, provide cool fluids and eventually relocate them to a safe, cool area. If the situation seems severe, call 911 immediately as some conditions – such as stroke – may result in fainting and need to be treated immediately.

For more resources on keeping the elderly safe or to learn about community living resources for the elderly, contact us here at Beacon Senior Advisors today by calling: 973-713-0096 or visit

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