People over 50 are at the greatest risk of suffering heat-related illnesses. Many people die of heat-related illnesses each year; most of these deaths can be prevented with advance preparation.

The two most common types of hyperthermia are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is much more dangerous and requires prompt medical attention. Older people are more likely to suffer from heat-related health problems for many reasons:

Changes in the skin due to normal aging, poor circulation and inefficient sweat glands can affect how your body handles heat.

Lung and kidney diseases, and illnesses that cause general weakness or fever, can be compounded by high temperatures.

High blood pressure.

Use of some medications can reduce or eliminate the body’s ability to sweat. Some diuretics, sedatives and tranquilizers can cause this to occur; high blood pressure and certain heart medications can do this as well.

Drinking alcohol on hot and humid days.

Being overweight or substantially underweight.

Other factors, often referred to as lifestyle factors, can also contribute to the risk of heat-related health problems for seniors. Unbearably hot living quarters, the lack of transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places and failing to understand the affect of adverse weather conditions are a few.

There are many ways to detect heat-related illness. Generally, a person suffering from heat stress will feel tired, dizzy, may have a headache and may also complain of nausea. Victims of heat stroke have a body temperature of over 104 degrees, may act confused or delirious, and their skin will appear dry and flushed. Persons exhibiting any of these symptoms should seek immediate medical assistance.

It is important to get the person out of the sun and into a cool place as soon as possible.

Offer them plenty of water and fruit juices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Encourage a bath or shower, or cool the person off with water.

Make sure the person is lying down, ideally in an air-conditioned area.

New York Office on Aging