The summer months bring sunny days and warmer weather. As the days get hotter, the risk of heat-related illness, or hyperthermia, rises. Hyperthermia happens when the body is unable to regulate temperature and overheats. Hyperthermia especially affects adults over age 50.

Hyperthermia can refer to a number of differing conditions from heat cramps, often felt as a tightening of the muscles in the stomach, legs, or arms; and the more serious heat exhaustion, experienced by dizziness, weakness, nausea and, uncoordinated movements; to the more serious and life threatening, such as heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke can include fainting, confusion, staggering, acting strangely, or disorientation. This may be accompanied by a strong rapid pulse, or a slow weak pulse, and the skin will often be dry and flushed.

Being aware of symptoms such as headache, confusion, dizziness or nausea is important. If you are experiencing symptoms move to a cool, shaded place, lie down, and rest. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. A cool bath or shower, or even using a cool damp sponge or towel can help cool you down. If symptoms persist or you do not cool down, visit a doctor or the emergency room. The best defense against hyperthermia is prevention. Taking the steps below can often help you avoid hyperthermia.

  • Make sure to drink plenty of fluids, preferably water or fruit or vegetable juices.
  • Open windows at night, and try to create a crosswind by opening windows on different sides of your home.
  • Keep curtains, shades, or blinds closed during the hottest part of the day.
  • Dress for the weather by wearing lighter fabrics and dressing in layers that can be removed as the temperature rises.
  • Avoid exercise or a lot of activities when hot.
  • Use air conditioned public spaces, such as malls, libraries, community centers, and senior centers when temperatures are too hot.

For more information on equipment and services, including Lifeline auto-alert, call Council on Aging Silicon Valley at (408) 350-3200, option 1 to speak with Information & Assistance.