Seton Healthcare Family warns that sitting in a hot car is a serious but preventable cause of heat strokes among the elderly during the summer months. Visits to the emergency room for people 65 and over increase during the summer, accounting for about 9 percent of total ER visits.

“Heat stroke can cause permanent damage or even death within minutes. Temps can rise 20 degrees within just 10 minutes in parked cars, even if the car is in the shade or the windows are cracked,” says Kevin Rix, MPH. Rix is the injury prevention coordinator for trauma services at University Medical Center Brackenridge.

Intense summer heat begins earlier in the day and lasts later through the night.

A simple solution: Bring elderly passengers inside with you instead of leaving them in the car while you’re out and about.

How does heat stroke happen?

Body temperatures can jump to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Older adults and children can’t adjust to extreme temperature changes as quickly as others.

Additionally, older people are more likely to have a chronic condition that could be worsened by heat or they could be taking a medication that alters the body’s ability to respond to high temperatures.

Be able to identify heat stroke signs:

  • Red, hot and/or dry skin
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • High body temperature but reports feeling cold

 How to prevent heat strokes for all ages:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes and carry a refillable bottle.
  • Do not rely on air conditioning in a parked car. Get out of the car even during quick errands.
  • Take regular breaks in the shade to get rest if you are outside walking or doing activities.
  • Stay inside during extremely hot months, or be prepared to have access to a cool area at all times.

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from a heat stroke, call 911 and seek emergency care immediately.

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