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Posted on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 : 6:27 p.m.

High temperatures are not regulated well in the elderly

By Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM

Every time the temperatures soar and remain steadily high I think about the elderly. Seniors do not regulate their body temperature like they once did. As we age our body systems slow, and our ability to sweat is reduced, so we are unable to cool our bodies as they overheat. Add illnesses, medications that impair temperature regulation, and lack of sufficient fluid intake to a slowing body and an elderly person is much more susceptible to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

If you have an elderly relative or neighbor please check on them frequently this week and whenever the temperatures remain high. If they have no air conditioning and you have a fan you can spare, or provide, it will help them to remain cool. Keep curtains or shades closed to reduce the heat from direct sun. Remind and encourage light clothing, and increased fluids. Try and keep their activity to a minimum and their time outdoors brief.

When fluid intake is insufficient, you can provide foods with high water content in exchange. Watermelon, cucumbers, peaches, and other fruits and vegetables have fluid content between 80% and 98%. Soups, sorbets, and sherbet also have a high fluid content, but choose low sodium soups, and desserts sugar free if the person is diabetic.

Some elderly folks have an ordered fluid restriction, and are at risk for fluid overload complications. If that’s the case call the physician for advice on fluid intake during a heat spell.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the CDC offers a simple fact sheet you can print and refer to.

Angil Tarach can be reached for comments, questions, or assistance at, or (734) 929-9201