A heat wave can be dangerous for any person. However, it is especially so for babies, young children and the elderly for various reasons. As a person gets older, there temperature control mechanisms are not as efficient. In fact it is not uncommon for an older person to be feeling cold even in a warm to hot environment.
The temperature control centres in the brain becomes less sensitive with age and may therefore not initiate the correct cooling mechanisms when the body becomes overheated. This is not just a matter of age but also a result of using certain chronic medication and various chronic diseases that can either affect the temperature control centre or its mechanisms.
Even though a person acclimatizes to the temperature changes in their natural habitat, a heat wave brings upon excessively high temperatures for prolonged periods of time. It occurs suddenly and the body does not have the time to adapt. The persistence of these elevated temperatures also does not allow the body time to recuperate. There is the added danger when seniors go on vacation to traditionally hotter climates and then a heat wave may strike at the destination.
This can cause heat related illnesses. The most serious is a heat stroke but it is preceded by heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Therefore the typical heat stroke symptoms are not present at the outset. Dehydration is one of the main complications as the body loses water and salts (electrolytes) which on its own can be fatal. However, even overheating without dehydration can be life-threatening as various essential process in the body become disrupted and shut down.
Sweating is not a reliable indicator of the body being overheated. The elderly may suffer with conditions like hyperhidrosis or anhidrosis where there is little or no sweating despite the rise in the body temperature.
So don't just worry about our elderly in the winter - go and knock their door now - make sure they are ok!!!!