How Older Adults Can Stay Safe During an Extreme Heat Event


How Can Older Adults Stay Safe During an Extreme Heat Event?

Take high temperatures seriously, especially for individuals over 65 years old.

With increasing climate change and the severity of prolonged heat emergencies, Cal OES and the California Department of Public Health remind Californians of our collective responsibility to prepare and respond to protect vulnerable communities. Older adults (65+) are disproportionally at risk of extreme heat emergencies.

Here’s what older adults should be aware of when it comes to extreme heat preparedness:  

Why are older adults more at risk for extreme heat? 

  • Older adults do not adjust as well as younger people when confronted with abrupt temperature changes.
  • Older adults are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that alters their physiological response to heat.
  • Older adults are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control temperature or sweat.

How people over 65 years of age can prevent heat illness

  • Use the buddy system – check in on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Stay in air-conditioned facilities as much as possible. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, contact your local health department or locate a cooling center in your area.
  • A fan shouldn’t be your main cooling source.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of cool water, juice or sports drinks. Do not wait to hydrate until you’re thirsty. If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather.
  • Cooking with your stove or oven will make your residence hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses in Elderly Adults

Early warning signs of heat exhaustion, which may precede a more serious heat stroke, include:

  • Excessive sweating.
  • Tiredness and weakness.
  • Dizziness, headache and muscle cramps.
  • Symptoms may progress to nausea, vomiting and fainting.

If a senior is suffering from these symptoms:

  • Have them lie down in a cool place, and if possible, put a fan directly on them.
  • Take steps to lower body temperature. Air-conditioning, offering cool fluids and/or providing access to a cool bath will also help.

Caregiver checklist during extreme heat

Keep a close eye on those in your care by visiting them at least twice a day, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they drinking enough water?
  • Do they have access to air conditioning?
  • Do they know how to keep cool?
  • Do they show any signs of heat stress?

For more information, visit Staying Safe During Extreme Heat.