Extreme Weather and Public Health
Older Adult Toolkit
Heat illness is a preventable condition, but has been the number one weather-related cause of death in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heat illness causes more deaths than hurricanes, lighting, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. From 1992 to 2009, almost 1,500 deaths were caused by heat illness in Arizona. Of deaths among Arizona residents, 37.2 percent occurred in older adults over the age of 65. Older adults are one of the populations more vulnerable to the effects of excessive heat. The Heat and Older Adults Safety Toolkit (HOAST) was created to provide older adults and caregivers information to stay safe in the heat.
Find more information using the links below:
- What is Heat Illness?
- Why are Older Adults More Vulnerable?
- Indoor Heat Exposure
- Chronic Medical Conditions
- Prescription Medicines
- Heat and Older Adults Safety Toolkit (HOAST)
- Additional Resources
What is Heat Illness?
Heat illness occurs when the body becomes too hot and is no longer able to regulate its own temperature. There are several types of heat illness; three of the most common are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Why are Older Adults More Vulnerable?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states older adults, those aged 65 and older, are particularly vulnerable to heat illness. Age is a risk factor because older adults do not adjust as well to changes in temperature compared to when they were younger. They are also most likely to have a chronic medical condition that alters the body's normal response to heat. Prescription medicine use is also common in older adults. Some prescription medicines can impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or can inhibit perspiration.
Indoor Heat Exposure
Indoor heat exposure is a major contributor to heat-related deaths in older adults. According to Yip et al. (2008), one third of deaths during the 2005 heat wave in Arizona happened indoors; 81% of these fatalities occurred in older adults. The EPA states that elderly people spend 90% of their time indoors, therefore maintaining an appropriate indoor air temperature is important.
Chronic Medical Conditions
Individuals with certain medical conditions can also be more vulnerable to heat effects.
- Cardiovascular Conditions
- Respiratory Conditions
Talk to your health care provider to find out what medications you take that will interact with the heat. Below is a list of medicines that are known to be affected by heat.
- Sleep Aids
- Parkinson's drugs
- High blood pressure medicines
Heat and Older Adults Safety Toolkit (HOAST)
HOAST provides information and resources that can be used to educate older adults and care givers about heat illness prevention and treatment.
The following items make up the toolkit:
- Heat Illness and Older Adults Video
Watch the newly released Arizona Department of Health Services Heat and Older Adults Safety Toolkit video. Older adults, nurses, caretakers, and family members can check out the video to learn the basics about heat illness prevention.
- HOAST Cover Letter
- Caregiver Document
Document created to provide caregivers with information about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of heat illness.
- Heat Illness Tip Sheet
A tip sheet with tips to prevent, recognize signs and symptoms, and ways to treat heat illness.
- Crossword Puzzle and Answer Key
A puzzle to test your knowledge on heat illness.
- It's Hot Outside Brochure
A brochure created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that offers information about staying safe in the heat.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Fact Sheets
A fact sheet with information for older adults and family caregivers.
- "It's Too Darn Hot" – Planning for Excessive Heat Events
- "It's Too Darn Hot" – Planning for Excessive Heat Events (Easy-To-Read Purple Series)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Beat the Heat Posters
A poster to educate older adults about heat safety.
- Arizona Healthy Aging
The agency's webpage on maintaining health across the lifespan as part of the Healthy Aging Initiative.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Visit the LIHEAP website for assistance with immediate home energy needs for low income households.
- EPA Planning for Extreme Heat
EPA website with a collection of materials on strategies to protect against excessive heat.
- CDC Heat and the Elderly
CDC's Extreme Heat Media Toolkit for the older adult population.
- AZ Links
AZ Links is Arizona's Aging and Disability Resource center that provides resources for a variety of needs.
- Administration on Aging (AOA)
A resource to connect older adults, caregivers, and professionals to important federal, national, and local programs.