Richmond Seniors and Heat in the Elderly

July 14, 2021

How Richmond seniors can avoid heat-related illnesses this summerScreen-Shot-2021-07-14-at-11-55-19-AM.png

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reports the danger is serious for the elderly this summer. Soaring temperatures, high heat indexes, and hot, sunny conditions can make seniors sick. According to the VDH, "People aged 65 or older are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications that can result during periods of high temperatures and humidity." During the summer months, avoid sunlight exposure levels and high temperatures when they are at their greatest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Here are some more tips from the VDH to avoid heat-related illness during the summer:

Drink water - avoid sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. Stay hydrated by drinking 2-4 glasses of water each hour.

Keep cool indoors. If you don't have air conditioning at home, find a public place or cooling center to spend the hottest hours of the day. According to the VDH, "Even a few hours in an air-conditioned environment reduces the danger of heat-related illness and death."

Dress for the Heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, hats, or use an umbrella. Always use sunscreen.

Limit physical activity. Reschedule activities and outdoor work for the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning.  Click HERE for some great ideas for indoor activities for seniors to beat the heat!

Check on your neighbors

Understanding heat-related weather terminology can also help you and your family prepare for hot weather.

  • Heat Index: is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature.
  • Excessive Heat Outlooks: Issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days.
  • Excessive Heat Watches: Issued when conditions are favorable for excessive Heat in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning/Advisories: Issued when excessive Heat is expected in the next 36 hours.

Know the Signs & Symptoms:

Several heat-related health conditions can cause serious health problems. Watch for the following symptoms: High body temperature, fast pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion, headache, passing out, and hot, red, dry or damp skin.

Examples of Heat-related Illnesses:

Dehydration— Dehydration is caused by the excessive loss of water and salts from the body due to illness or from prolonged exposure to Heat. Severe dehydration can become a life-threatening condition if not treated.

Heat Cramps— Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy physical activity in hot environments. Muscles most often affected include those of your calves, arms, abdominal wall, and back. If you suffer from heat cramps, rest for several hours and drink clear juice or an electrolyte-containing sports drink.

Heat Exhaustion— Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water and salt from sweating during hot temperatures. The elderly, people who work outside, and people with high blood pressure are most at risk of heat exhaustion. Continued exposure may lead to heatstroke, which is life-threatening.

Heatstroke— Heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or physical activity in hot weather. Sweating has usually stopped, and your body temperature becomes too high; body temperatures can reach as high as 106 degrees in 15 minutes. Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition, and you should seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know is suffering from heatstroke.

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According to CBS, there were "206 visits made to emergency departments or urgent care centers across the Commonwealth for heat-related illnesses during the heatwave between June 28 and July 1. And between 2018 and 2020, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says there were 28 heat-related deaths in Virginia."

"We encourage all residents to take the necessary precautions to protect against heat-related illness," said Chief Deputy Commissioner of Community Health Services Dr. Parham Jaberi. "And remember to consider the special needs of children, the elderly and those without air conditioning in the hot weather."

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Source: Extreme Heat and Heat-Related Illnesses – Newsroom.