Troubles to Elders from Temperature
As people grow older, regulating the body temperature by withstanding hot and cold weather becomes more challenging. Changing the habits, medications, chronic ailments contribute to increased risk of heat disorder (hyperthermia) and cold disorder (hypothermia).In addition to physical changes, lifelong habits and finances add to the problem.
Regulation of body temperature
Perspiration helps cooling the body.As moisture on the skin evaporates, the body cools. Core temperature remains stable as long as fluid and salt are replenished. But if dehydration occurs the body tries to conserve fluid loss by ceasing sweating. It is important to take more fluid in order to perspire. But older people begin to lose their sense of thirst. By the time an older person is feeling thirsty, he is already quite dehydrated.
Another contributing factor for temperature-related disorders in many older people is a change in the sensation of temperature. This may be due to changes in the skin, a thinner layer of fat just below the surface of the skin, or to changes in the actual sensation of heat or cold.The body attempts to keep warm by shivering in cold temperatures. Thyroid conditions, circulatory ailments, strokes dementia, decreased mobility, medications and alcohol all impede an older personís ability to keep warm.
The following are some other factors that make controlling body temperature difficult
Humidity hinders the cooling process, because perspiration does not evaporate as quickly.
Conditions that alter blood circulation, such as high blood pressure, and inefficient sweat glands have an impact on temperature control, as does lack of conditioning.
Sedatives and tranquilizers may also decrease the bodyís ability to cool down.
Diuretics or water pills increase the risk of dehydration.
A body that stops cooling creates a medical emergency.
This is the feeling of weakness after exposure to high temperatures. People may feel faint with cool, moist skin and a weak pulse.
This occurs usually after exercising in the heat. The person suddenly feels dizzy. The skin becomes pale, moist and cool, the pulse weak and rapid.
Painful muscle spasms after strenuous activity and this can also be a sign of heat exhaustion.
Occurs when the body becomes too hot. Thirst, weakness, fatigue, nausea and profuse sweating serve as warnings. If treatment is delayed, heat exhaustion can advance to deadly heat stroke.
This can occur within 10 or 15 minutes. Symptoms of this potentially lethal rise in body temperature include confusion, bizarre behaviors, a strong with rapid pulse, dry, flushed skin with no sweat, headache or nausea.
First aid for heat-related illnesses includes moving to a cool and a shady place, offering cool liquids, packing in ice, and calling for medical assistance.
Preventing heat illnesses
Older persons should drink water or a fruit juice on a regular schedule rather than waiting until they feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol and caffeine, as these act as diuretics and deplete needed fluid. Do not take salt tablets unless directed by the physician.
Wear white, short-sleeve, loose-fitting, natural-fiber clothing.
Wear a wide-brim hat outside to provide shade.
Take a cool shower.
If you do not have air conditioning, cover windows to block sunlight.
Do not go out during the hottest part of the day.
Pace your activities.
Extreme Cold - Dangers
Inactive older adults generate less heat from the body and can easily lose body temperature. We heard about people dying from hyperthermia. A hypothermic death can look like heart failure or an accident. Older people can be in their own home at 60 degrees and yet be in trouble.While in the house, wear multiple layers and use extra blankets. And when going out, bundle up. Wear gloves, a hat and several layers. Stay indoors on cold, windy days. Winds hasten cooling.
A drop in core body temperature can kill. Symptoms include confusion, sleepiness, slow slurred speech, a weak slow pulse, extremity stiffness, and slow reactions. Shivering may or may not be present. Check your body temperature with a thermometer. If it is high, call for medical help.
To help someone with hypothermia until emergency medical help arrives, keep him or her warm with additional blankets or your own body. If he or she can swallow, offer warm liquids, but no alcohol, which expands blood vessels near the surface and thereby lets the much needed body heat to escape. Do not rub the personís skin.
When exposed to cold, the small blood vessels in the hands and feet contract, blocking blood flow. The skin turns white, it then turns blue and then red as circulation returns. The area feels numb or prickly. Doctors recommend to stay warm both indoors and out, with socks, multiple layers of gloves and mittens, and scarves. Wear mittens when taking food from the refrigerator. Sufferers also must protect against injury to the skin and stop smoking.