With the arrival of summer we all endure the heat as we can, but if there is a population group that suffers the effects of high temperatures more than anyone is the one formed by the elderly, who have a greater risk of dehydration because, in them , the feeling of thirst is less.

The Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG) warns that when temperatures are high it is essential to prevent the occurrence of a heat stroke. Especially in those overweight, and those who are undergoing medical treatment or have chronic diseases, as these are at a greater risk of suffering.

The human body is maintained at a temperature that ranges between 36 and 37 degrees Celsius. The doctor Lourdes Ausín, member of the SEGG and geriatrician in the Parquesol Public Residence of Castilla y León, explains that if the temperature of the exterior is around 20 degrees, we are in a thermal equilibrium, which breaks when large variations occur in that temperature; thus, with these temperature changes, the thermostatic mechanism of the organism is forced to generate compensation mechanisms to stabilize the body.

Heat stroke hazards

If the body temperature exceeds 41 degrees originates a hyperthermia, and what is known as heat stroke occurs, which prevents the body from responding to high temperatures, and involves serious repercussions that could even lead to an irreversible organic failure.

Headaches, dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, chills, dry skin, disorientation, confusion or loss of consciousness, and lack of sweating in the face of high temperatures are some of the symptoms of hyperthermia.

Before this increase in body temperature the body responds by dilating the small peripheral vessels in order to facilitate blood flow through the skin. If you add to this the increase of sweating that occurs, it is easy to understand that there is a loss of heat by evaporation, which could lead to a significant loss of fluids that has repercussions on different organs (kidney, heart, brain ...), notes Dr. Ausín.

The specialist explains that when the body is subjected to high temperatures and the lost fluids are not adequately replenished, dehydration occurs, blood pressure drops and the patient experiences weakness and muscle cramps may occur. If the problem is not treated, the symptoms continue: the skin reddens and becomes dry, the individual stops sweating, his body temperature continues to rise to over 40 degrees, and enters hyperthermia. If the process does not stop, a shock which results in multiple organ failure, seizures and coma.

Tips to avoid hyperthermia

To prevent the onset of hyperthermia, SEGG advises:

  • Drink a lot of fluid: Do not wait until you are thirsty, because this sensation can be deceptive, especially in the elderly. Drink mostly water, but also infusions, dairy products and fruit juices; and not consume alcoholic beverages because they accelerate dehydration.
  • The diet should be light and include fruits and vegetables (with high water content), to avoid heavy digestions.
  • Stay in the shade if temperatures are high, especially if the relative humidity is also high (greater than 60%), and during the hours of highest solar intensity (between twelve in the morning and four in the afternoon).
  • Do not perform any type of exercise or physical activity that imply an increase of the fatigue and the amount of sweat in the hours of heat.
  • Ventilate the house and keep it as cool as possible.
  • Do not stay inside closed vehicles without air conditioning.
  • Dressing in comfortable clothes made with light fabrics (linen, cotton ...), and preferably light in color. Use hats or hats to protect the head.
  • Before leaving on vacation, consult with the geriatrician In case you had to give us any indication regarding the medication.

Source: Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG)

Don't Let Heat Stroke Strike (November 2019).