Now that we are officially into summer, it’s important to take a few minutes to prepare for the heat and humidity of the season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that extreme heat causes more deaths than other weather related events combined. This includes the big ones that are always in the forefront of our mind like tornadoes and hurricanes! And unfortunately, this is becoming a bigger problem each year.
Older adults have a difficult time adjusting to heat because as we age our bodies aren’t able to regulate body temperature as quickly. This is due to age, those pesky chronic diseases we often accrue over time and sometimes medications that make this regulation more difficult.
Here are nine simple tips to prevent heat stroke and heat exhaustion:
- Drink fluids more often, don’t wait until you are thirsty. Speak with a doctor if you or the person you care for is on fluid pills or is concerned about incontinence.
- Keep away from drinks that are sugary or contain alcohol because these types of drinks are dehydrating.
- Stay indoors or find an air-conditioned place to stay during the day; this might be a senior or community center, it may be the mall or the library. Stay tuned to the radio or TV news stations on extremely hot days for the location of heat-relief shelters.
- Wear lightweight clothing.
- Take a cool shower or bath.
- Take it easy, no strenuous exercise.
- Keep in mind many of the old homes in this area don’t have central air and fans, while they move the air around, may not be enough on the ‘dog days’ of summer. In the DC Metro area, the humidity is also a factor as sweat can not evaporate and cool us as quickly.
- Remember cars can quickly become very hot in the heat. Do not leave anyone or any pets in cars.
- Check on your family members and neighbors, who may be at risk, frequently during the day.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate replacement of fluids. Warning signs may include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea and dizziness. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke with symptoms that may include a body temperature above 103 F, red, hot and dry skin (not clammy), a rapid, strong pulse, a throbbing headache, dizziness and nausea. Get medical assistance immediately for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Christine Bitzer, LICSW, is the Assistant Director of Seabury Resources for Aging’s Care Management service. Care managers work with older adults on an individual basis to advise them on a variety of issues and services; such as home care, transportation, medical/legal assistance and housing. Families are put at ease having a knowledgeable guide to provide recommendations and resources to meet their unique needs. This expertise can save families money and reduce stress and time away from work. Christine can be reached at (202) 364-0020 or email her at CBitzer@seaburyresources.org