Adults older than 65 are at higher risk of heat exhaustion. The body’s ability to regulate its temperature may be reduced by illness, medications, or other factors in older adults. Carrying excess weight can affect your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and cause your body to retain more heat.
Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition that occurs when your core body temperature reaches 104 F or higher. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention to prevent permanent damage to your brain and other vital organs that can result in death.
You can take a number of precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. When temperatures climb, remember to:
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly.
- Protect against sunburn. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself, so protect yourself outdoors with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or sweating.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain normal body temperature.
- Take extra precautions with certain medications. Be on the lookout for heat-related problems if you take medications that can affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat.
If you think you’re experiencing heat exhaustion:
- Stop all activity and rest
- Move to a cooler place
- Drink cool water or sports drinks
Contact your doctor if your signs or symptoms worsen or if they don’t improve within one hour. If you are with someone showing signs of heat exhaustion, seek immediate medical attention if he or she becomes confused or agitated, loses consciousness, or is unable to drink.