With the summer months upon us, it’s critical for everyone, and especially vulnerable populations like the elderly, to stay hydrated and keep cool. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extreme heat caused 7,415 heat-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010. Those most at risk for heat illnesses and death are the elderly, children, the poor and those with pre-existing medical conditions, so it’s also important to keep an extra set of eyes on people in these populations to ensure they’re staying safe. What is Heat Stroke and How Do You Get Heat Exhaustion? Heat stroke is a condition in which the body cannot regulate its own temperature, and may lead to death or permanent disability. Symptoms include a high body temperature above 103 degrees, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness. People may also have red, hot and dry skin with no sweating and a rapid pulse. They could also have a painful headache. If someone is experiencing heat stroke, get them to a shady area and help cool them with whatever methods you know including putting them in a tub of cool water or a cold shower. Try to get their body temperature to drop to 102 or 101 degrees. Do not give the victim something to drink, and get them medical attention as fast as possible. Heat exhaustion, on the other hand, is a milder form of illness which can occur after a few days of exposure to high heat without replenishing fluids. Signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscles cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting and fainting. The person may have a fast and weak pulse as well as breathing, and the skin may be cool and moist. If you see someone experiencing heat exhaustion, make sure they cool off through rest and by drinking cool, nonalcoholic beverages. Also, stay in colder area. Seek medical help if symptoms worsen or persist over an hour. 5 Tips for Beating the Heat This Summer Here are a few tips to help beat the heat and stay safe in the summer weather:
- Wear appropriate clothing for the occasion, whether indoors or outdoors.
- Be aware of extreme heat events and warning signs for heat-related illness to look for.
- Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink, by this time you are already dehydrated.
- Carry a water bottle with you and drink from it regularly (make your water more interesting by adding lemon or lime to add flavor).
- Eat hydrating foods like cucumbers, radishes, watermelon and strawberries, all of which contain at least 90% water by weight.
Summer Safety for Seniors Here are a few things you can do to make your summer safer and healthier. SKIN PROTECTION: Everyone knows the sun can be dangerous but we all need is the valuable vitamin D the sun brings. So it can’t be said enough, use protective sunscreen. Skin cancers are an unwelcome trade off if you play roulette with the sun. Looking tan is fine but only if you do it with skin safety in mind. Even better, skip the sun and make indoor plans. HYDRATION: It seems like a no-brainer but millions of people put themselves in danger needlessly but forgetting to or under-hydrating during the sweltering months. Our bodies need that fluid to keep cool and replenish the liquids we lose on those hot summer days. If you are increasing your activity you need to increase those fluids, too. And make sure you aren’t simply drinking sugary drinks, they will do more harm than good. Your best choices are water obviously but you can do as well with the beverages that restore electrolytes. Just stay away from the sugar loaded beverages. LAYER CLOTHING: If you’re in scorching summer heat and then in frigid air conditioning, dress in layers so you can adjust throughout the day. Dressing in layers will ensure comfort with indoor air conditioning or outdoor heat. KEEP COOL INDOORS: While cooking outdoors is a right of passage in great weather consider staying cool indoors and eating cool foods like summer salads, cold soups, hard boiled eggs, and even delicious fruit smoothies. Keep your home cooler by avoiding oven cooked meals and really savor the season with more summery choices. RINSE AWAY THE HEAT OF THE DAY: Taking a cooling shower can do great good in lowering your body temperature. This can be especially helpful if you have been outside in direct sun. Remember to moisturize your skin after also. and, if you can’t get to the shower, cold compresses are a great second option. AIR CONDITIONING OR OPEN WINDOWS AT NIGHT: As we sleep, our body temperature tends to drop slightly. However, using air conditioning can help you get a better night’s rest. If you don”t have air conditioning open windows at night and use fans to circulate cooler air in and stale hot air out. Getting enough sleep is often overlooked for peak health but if you are like most people, it may be much more difficult to sleep when you are too warm. Utilizing cooling machines becomes a worthwhile investment. CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE: Most people would rather give up an appendage than skip their morning coffee. But caffeine acts as a diuretic to the kidneys and can increase your likelihood to dehydrate. Try to substitute those beverages with non-caffeinated choices and you will feel the value of those replenishing liquids. THROW OUT THE THROW RUGS: This may seem an unlikely suggestion but most falls seniors suffer occur in the home and are often related to tripping on area rugs, bath mats, and other items. Do yourself a favor and avoid them wherever possible. A bare floor is cooler and easier to keep clean as well. Resources: