Q. What is a normal body temperature?
Body temperature fluctuates during the day between 97 F and 99 F. When you wake up, your temperature is at the low end of the range; it increases as the day progresses.
The common standard for a “normal” temperature is 98.6 F.
However, the range of normal is about a degree above or below 98.6.
An oral temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit or a rectal or ear temperature above 101 F is considered a fever in the majority of adults.
If your temperature reaches 103 F, you should contact a physician. Another alarm bell is a fever that lasts more than three days.
A fever usually means your body is fighting an infection from bacteria or a virus. In older adults, the immune system doesn’t function as efficiently as it does in younger people. The body's fever response to infection is not always automatic in elderly people. More than 20 percent of adults over age 65 who have serious bacterial infections do not have fevers.
Q. Do older people faint more than younger people?
Yes. When you pass 70 years, you double the chances of fainting. And the odds triple after 80. Fainting is common. About one in three people faint at least once in a lifetime.
Syncope (SINK-o-pea) is the medical word for fainting or a temporary – a few seconds – loss of consciousness. Fainting happens when your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen from your blood supply.
Syncope is often foreshadowed by “premonitory symptoms” that include nausea, feeling lightheaded and irregular heartbeats.
Syncope is a symptom, not a medical condition. Syncope can be an indicator of a serious problem, so it should not be taken lightly. If you have a fainting spell, get checked out by a doctor. It’s sometimes difficult to diagnose syncope in seniors because there can be multiple causes.
Q. What is “nocturia”? Nocturia is the need to urinate at night. Both men and women get nocturia.
Some people with severe nocturia get up as many as six times a night to go to the bathroom. The International Continence Society defines nocturia as two or more voids at night.
Nocturia is more common among seniors than younger people. In a survey taken by the National Sleep Foundation, about two thirds of the adults (55 to 84 years old) polled reported an urge to go to the bathroom at least several nights a week.
There are a variety of reasons for nocturia in older people.
First, we produce less of a hormone that helps us retain fluid. Because of this decreased capacity, seniors produce more urine at night. Second, the bladder – a muscular sac – loses its capacity to hold urine. Third, we have more health problems that can affect the bladder.
Many men suffer from nocturia because of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as enlarged prostate.
The prostate is a walnutsize organ that surrounds the tube (urethra) that carries urine from the bladder and out of your body.
Pelvic organ displacement, menopause and childbirth can cause nocturia in many women. The pelvic floor is a network of muscles, ligaments and other tissues that hold up the pelvic organs: the vagina, rectum, uterus and bladder. When this hammock-like network weakens, the organs can slip out of place and create disorders.
Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. If you would like to ask a question, write to fred@ healthygeezer.com.