Helping older adults manage dangerous summer temperatures

With 100-plus degree temperatures setting records and two-thirds of the state recently subject to heat advisories, hot weather is making its sometimes-deadly impact in Minnesota.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to hot weather, as aging bodies lose the ability to quickly and easily adapt to high heat. Often compounding the problem are prescription drugs that can also reduce the body’s ability to adjust to temperature changes.

During hot weather, make sure your older adult…

  • Drinks more fluids. It’s very important to keep hydrated, and to drink before thirst sets in. Warning: If your physician limits the amount of fluid your loved one can drink or has them on water pills, consult the doctor first about increasing water consumption. Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, which actually cause body fluid loss.
  • Stays inside, ideally in an air-conditioned room. If your home does not have air conditioning, visit a shopping mall, public library, or book store. Perhaps use the hot weather as a reason to go out to dinner at a cool restaurant. Your local health department can also provide information on any heat-relief shelters.
  • Uses cool showers/baths. Though turning on a few electric fans may offer some relief, a more effective alternative is to take a cool shower or bath.
  • Wears clothing that is lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting.
  • Gets visitors. Visit at-risk adults twice a day or more, and carefully watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, as follows…


Symptoms of heat stroke:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin but without sweating
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 or summon medical personnel immediately.