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Heat Safety

July 18, 2020

It feels like we’ve arrived at the “dog days of summer” as my Grandmother used to say.  As I’m writing this article, it’s a toasty 88 degrees outside.  I was going to go to the beach, but when I got there, it was outrageously crowded.  In consideration of social distancing, I came back home to hide in the A/C and write my article. 

Did you know that people aged 65 and older are more prone to heat injuries than younger adults?  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature. They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes how their body responds to heat. They are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.

When the weather is extremely hot and/or humid, the best policy is to stay cool and stay hydrated.  This might mean

  • Staying in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  • Do not rely exclusively on a fan as your only cooling source when it’s really hot outside.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask the doctor how much you should drink during hot weather.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.

If you are a caregiver for an elder, keep a close eye on them, and ask yourself these questions

  • Are they drinking enough water?
  • Do they have access to air conditioning?
  • Do they know how to keep cool?
  • Do they show any signs of heat stress?

Do you know the signs of heat-related illnesses and what to do if they occur?

The symptoms of Heat Stroke are

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 right away as this is a medical emergency. In addition, move the person to a cooler place, help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath, and do not give the person anything to drink.

The symptoms of Heat Exhaustion are

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting (passing out)

If you suspect heat exhaustion, move the person to a cool place, loosen their clothes, put cool, wet cloths on their body or give them a cool bath, and have them sip water. Get medical help right away if they are throwing up, their symptoms get worse, or their symptoms last longer than one hour.

The symptoms of Heat Cramps are

  • Heavy sweating during intense exercise
  • Muscle pain or spasms

If heat cramps are suspected, stop physical activity and move to a cool place, drink water or a sports drink, wait for cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity. Get medical help right away if cramps last longer than one hour, if the person effected is on a low-sodium diet, or if they have heart problems.

Wishing you a lovely summer. Stay cool and hydrated.  Maybe I’ll see you at the beach.  I’ll be hiding under a big umbrella six feet away from anyone!