Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Our body needs to maintain a core body temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to accomplish this, it must generate heat or rid itself of excess heat, depending on our environment and activity level.
In order to cool ourselves, our blood vessels will dilate and we may begin to sweat. When we need to generate heat, our blood vessels will constrict and we may begin to shiver.
There are three heat related illnesses that may develop when we struggle to maintain our optimal body temperature as the outdoor temperature begins to rise. Heat cramps may be one of the ﬁrst signs that our body is having trouble cooling down.
Without proper care, the body may then begin experiencing heat exhaustion. If this is left in untreated, heat stroke may develop, which is a life threatening condition.
Ideally our body will regulate its temperature to keep us in a safe range. However, there are several factors that make it more difficult for our body to do this. Age (the young and the old), alcohol use, cognitive impairment, dehydration, heart and lung disease, high heat index, obesity and over-exertion are just a few.
Medications may also play a role in making it difficult for our body to maintain its optimal temperature. Medications are known to affect our body’s natural cooling processes by:
Reducing blood ﬂow to the skin
Decreasing the body’s ability to sweat
Increasing urine output, leading to dehydration
Increasing internal heat production
Clouding one’s judgment in recognizing the need for seeking relief from overheating.
The list of drugs that may affect our body temperature is extensive. The following is a sample of medications that are of concern:
Antihistamines/Decongestants (certain allergy medications like Benadryl)
High blood pressure medications (Beta-blockers, diuretics)
Certain recreational drugs
The early symptoms of a heat related illness, such as headache, weakness, or dizziness can be treated by hydrating the person and moving them to a cooler place. If there is little or no improvement, medical personnel should be contacted.
Here are five tips to help prevent a heat related illness:
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any medications that may put you at higher risk
Drink plenty of ﬂuids
Spend time in air conditioning whenever possible
Avoid strenuous activity during hottest part of day