Saturday, June 11, 2022

It's (semi-)official: older people don't deal well with heat

Everyone knows that older people struggle more than younger folk in heat-waves. You only have to look at figures from the deadly "heat dome" in British Columbia this time last year to see that over 91% of the deaths were in over-60's. And, of course, older people have more co-morbidities (other existing health problems): the same document shows that about 80% of those who died had at least 3 recorded chronic diseases (some had over 10! Imagine that!)

But I found it interesting that new (still unpublished, and non-peer reviewed as yet) research from the University of Ottawa, shows that older people just don't deal well with extended heat. The core temperature of a 20-year old after 9 hours of 40°C temperatures levels out at about 37.6°C (not that much higher than the normal core temperature of 37°C). A 74-year old, though, sees their core temperature reach 38.8°C, which meets the clinical definition of a fever. One 77-year old in the study had to stop the heat exposure after hour 6 as their temperature reached 39.2°C and just kept climbing, and they started to feel seriously unwell.

So, next time there is a heat-wave near you - and you know there will be - spare a thought for the older folks. It's not their fault they have difficulty coping.

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