Heat Related Illnesses and the Elderly


People over 65 years of age can be at high risk for heat-related illness. How can you help?

A Message from the Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC)

  • Elderly people’s physiology does not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature. They tend to have a decreased thirst sensation and do not feel the urge to drink as often as younger people. They may have physical conditions that make it difficult to drink.

  • They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that upsets normal body responses to heat.

  • They are more likely to take prescription medicines (such as diuretics and anti-cholinergic medications) that impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

What We Can Do:

  • Visit or have contact with older adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

  • Provide access to an air conditioner, and if none is in the residence, transport the person to a store, public library, restaurant, senior center, or cooling center.

  • Make sure older adults have access to an electric fan, though this is not reliable once the temperatures are above the mid-90s.

  • Assure adequate fluid intake, avoiding those that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar – these can cause more loss of body fluid.

  • Make sure clothing is loose and lightweight.

  • Assure access to cooling water – a bath, shower, wet towels.

Studies from heat waves show the highest risk factors for death and hospitalization are older age, living alone, lack of access to an air conditioner, and underlying medical conditions.

For More Information

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