It’s not even summer and parts of the country struggle with record highs. Hot weather is a big concern for older adults, especially those living with chronic medical conditions. The factors that directly affect the risks are lack of fluids, absence of cold air-conditioning, excessive clothing, overcrowded places and physical inactivity.
If you have a chronic condition, here are a few ways to avoid the risks of heat and humidity. Wear lightweight clothing, put on a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors, take frequent water breaks, apply sunscreen, and never leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle. But stay indoors where it’s cool during the peak heat, 10 AM to 5 PM. If you do not have air conditioning, visit public places like the local library, the shopping mall, the local senior center, or movie theaters.
Pay attention to signs of heat stroke
Older bodies have trouble regulating temperature. The elderly, the young, the obese, and individuals living with compromised immune systems are at greater risk. High humidity interferes with the evaporation of sweat, a body’s way of cooling itself.
Be cautious and pay attention to the warning signs and symptoms of a heat stroke:
Body temperature at or over 103°F, dry (hot and red) skin, fast pulse rate, excruciating headache, dizziness, vomiting, and nausea, extreme sweating, light or whitish colored skin, severe muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, and cold and wet skin.
If you suspect a heat stroke, call 911 immediately. To prevent a heat stroke, drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration and lessen vigorous activities in hot and humid weather.
Risk factors of a heat-related illness:
—Chronic illnesses (heart and kidney diseases; blood circulation conditions)
—Prescription medications that reduce sweating
—No access to air-conditioning
—Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol
Home cooling ideas
—Place a bowl of ice-cold water in front of your box or pedestal fan, it will create a chilly breeze.
—When you shower, turn on the bathroom fan.
—Drink cold water and put a cold cloth or two on your body.
—Lessen heat in the home by turning lights and powerful electronics off.
—Use your thinnest set of cotton sheets, not flannel.
—Eat meals that don’t need to cook on the stove or oven. Use a microwave instead.
Other practices to follow
—Go out early morning if you go out at all.
—Drink plenty of cool water
—Eat cooling snacks
—When outside and feel hot, put a cool washcloth around the neck
—Sit and put the feet in a pot of cool water.
—Wear light-colored layers of lightweight clothing
—Take a cool shower, bath, or washcloth wipe-down.
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Carol Marak, aging advocate, Seniorcare.com. She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.