Nursing Home Residents at Highest Heatstroke Risk

They're most vulnerable to die from an attack, French study finds

TUESDAY, Aug. 14, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Heatstroke may be most lethal for people who live in nursing homes or take medication to lower their blood pressure, a French study finds.

Heatstroke, which results from exposure to high temperatures, is "defined by an elevated core body temperature above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), associated with central nervous system abnormalities," the study authors wrote.

They looked at the survival rates and outcomes of 83 heatstroke patients hospitalized in the city of Lyon during a severe heat wave that struck Europe in 2003. Estimates of the death toll ranged from 22,000 to more than 70,000 people.

Of the 83 patients in the study, 58 percent died within 28 days after being admitted to hospital. The patients who died:

  • more often came from an institution for the elderly (24 of 48 who died vs. 7 of 35 survivors);
  • were more likely to have used blood-pressure lowering drugs long-term (33 of 48 who died vs. 13 of 35 survivors);
  • had a higher average body temperature when they were admitted to hospital (41.3 degrees C/106.3 degrees F compared with 40.7 degrees C/105.3 degrees F among survivors);
  • had more respiratory, cardiovascular or kidney dysfunctions than survivors;
  • were more likely to be in a coma when they arrived at the hospital (81 percent of those who died vs. 23 percent of survivors), or to have anuria, the inability to form urine (19 of those who died vs. zero of survivors).

The study was published online Aug. 13 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine and was expected to be published in a later print issue.

A second study, also published by the journal, found that being confined to bed, not leaving home daily, or being unable to care for oneself were associated with death from heatstroke.

For this study, Saudi Arabian researchers analyzed six previous studies that examined a total of 1,065 heat-related deaths.

More information

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has more about extreme heat.

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