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Preventing Heat Stress & Heat Stroke in Seniors

by Richard Bitner

For many people, summer is the year’s most enjoyable season. But for seniors, the extreme temperatures of July and August can represent a serious health concern. At Visiting Angels, our elderly care providers take extra care every summer to protect seniors against the dangers of heat stress and heat stroke, both of which can be especially dangerous for seniors, so we know how crucial protecting seniors against the heat can be. Preventing Heat Stress & Heat Stroke in Seniors

There are many reasons why heat stroke is a particular concern among the elderly. Unlike younger adults, seniors’ bodies have trouble regulating temperature. As a result, seniors can experience heat stress more quickly than others. Seniors also have more trouble detecting changes in their own body temperature, so they often rely on family members, friends, or elderly care providers to look out for signs of heat stress. Finally, seniors’ existing medical conditions can put them at higher risk of complications or medical episodes during heat stress.

If you are concerned about heat stress and heat stroke in an elderly loved one, the following information will help you keep your loved one protected. Preventing Heat Stress & Heat Stroke in Seniors

Preventing Heat Stress in Seniors

While heat stress and heat stroke are considerable dangers for seniors, there are steps you can take to lower the risk of heat stress in the elderly. As soon as it starts to get hot out, there are a number of things you can do to limit your loved one’s risk of heat stress:

  • Ensure seniors drink plenty of fluids when the temperature rises.
  • If possible, keep seniors in a cool, climate-controlled area, especially during the warmest times of the day.
  • When going outdoors, have seniors wear plenty of sunscreen.
  • Have seniors wear light and loose clothing and a shady hat when outdoors.
  • Keep seniors in shady areas as much as possible and prevent exposure to direct sunlight.
  • Make sure seniors don’t over-exert themselves when experiencing hot temperatures.

Know the Signs of Heat Stress & Heat Stroke

If you are an elderly care provider for a family member, it is important that you are aware of the signs of heat stress and heat stroke. This way, if your loved one begins to experience heat-related distress, you will be able to take immediate action.
Some of the signs of heat stress (body temperature between 99° F and 102° F) you should be aware of include:

  • Skin appears pale, is cool to the touch
  • Complaints of muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, or nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pulse becomes faster and weaker
  • Breathing becomes faster and more shallow
  • Person appears tired or weak


A person suffering from heat stress may quickly develop heat stroke (body temperature above 103° F) — a dangerous and life-threatening condition. Once a person begins to suffer from heat stroke, their symptoms may change, and can include:

  • Skins turns red, becomes hot to the touch
  • Person stops sweating, skin feels dry
  • Severe headache, dizziness, and nausea
  • Pulse very rapid and weak
  • Breathing increasingly shallow
  • Fainting

How to Treat Heat Stress & Heat Stroke in Seniors

If you believe an elderly person in your care is experiencing heat stress, it’s important that you take action quickly. An immediate response can be the difference between life and death in many situations.
Immediate steps you should take when someone is experiencing heat stroke include:

  • Have someone call 911 as quickly as possible for emergency assistance.
  • Move the person to a cool area that is shaded from the sun.
  • Use any means possible to reduce the person’s body temperature. Cold water is one of the best ways to reduce a person’s body temperature. You can mist them with a garden hose, sponge them with cold water, have them sit in a cool shower, or immerse them in a tub of cold water.
  • If you have a thermometer, monitor the person’s temperature. You should try to get their temperature to below 102° F as quickly as possible.
  • When on the phone with 911, follow all directives provided by the emergency personnel.


If you are concerned about heat stress and heat stroke for an elderly family member, but worry that you can’t be there to monitor your loved one during heat waves and other high-heat periods, you may wish to consider home elderly care. Elderly care services — like those provided by your local Visiting Angels — can provide your loved one with monitoring and support during hot periods. For more information, check out this brochure on Beating the Heat.

To connect with elderly care providers in your area, contact
your local Visiting Angels office today. Preventing Heat Stress & Heat Stroke in Seniors

* Note: Visiting Angels does not provide medical care. If you are concerned about your loved one’s health or risk of heat stroke, please contact their doctor. The information contained in this article is meant as informative only and should not be considered a recommendation for care, treatment or diagnosis.

Preventing Heat Stress & Heat Stroke in Seniors

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