Hyperthermia: too hot for your health
NIH expert Dr. Basil Eldadah describes hyperthermia and explains why it can deeply affect the elderly during the summer.
Egwuagu: During the summer especially in July and August the temperature stays in the high 80's and 90's, posing dehydration and other special health risks for older adults. There is a likely chance they can also develop the condition known as hyperthermia. Dr. Basil Eldadah, a NIH expert on this matter, describes hyperthermia.
Eldadah: Hyperthermia is generally where the core body temperature is elevated above 38.5C, so in Fahrenheit that would be about 101F.
Egwuagu: There are 2 different types of hyperthermia mild and severe. Mild types of hyperthermia are when your body temperature reaches over 38 degrees Celsius. The symptoms for mild hyperthermia are fatigue, and dehydration. The severe type of hyperthermia is when your body temperature goes over 40.5 C which may cause heat stroke.
Eldadah: Heat stroke is the more severe form of hyperthermia which involves more severe symptoms like weakness nausea, headache, central nervous system symptoms like confusion, or inability to balance, sometimes seizure, or coma can occur. There may be other symptoms as well, like having very hot and paradoxically dry skin, and then you might find that the heart rate is very fast, and maybe there might be blood pressure changes. And so those are some of the more common symptoms of heat stroke. Of course there might be more severe life threatening symptoms as well that suggests damage or failure of different organs like the kidney heart lungs and brain.
Egwuagu: There are a number of health related factors that may increase the chances of hyperthermia for older adults, such as dehydration, taking several drugs for conditions and being over or underweight. Dr. Eldadah explains more in depth why the elderly are more susceptible to hyperthermia.
Eldadah: Older people are at risk because of other reasons as well, so older people may tend to be more dehydrated may not have as an intact sense of when they are dehydrated and there for may not drink adequately, drink fluids adequately. Older people may have other comorbid illness' that may place them at risk for heat related illnesses. Older people tend to take a lot of meds and there are lots of different kinds of meds that may put somebody at risk of developing hyperthermia.
Egwuagu: So, what can you do to decrease your risk of getting hyperthermia?
Eldadah: Prevention of course, is the best form of decreasing the risk so number 1is to ensure that there is access to a cool place during hot weather, so ensure that there is access to an air conditioned place, if not, one's own home, to at least go to a place where it is cool. Another is to ensure one maintains their hydration to make sure they are drinking fluid adequately. Another way is to avoid alcohol and caffeine in hot weather; because those have a tendency to dehydrate.
Egwuagu: Hyperthermia is a serious issue for the elderly during the summer; it kills more people than any other weather related condition in the United States. For more information on hyperthermia, visit www.nia.nih.gov. For NIH Radio, this is Emeka Egwuagu— NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®