Hot weather is a major concern for older adults, especially those living with chronic medical conditions. Factors that directly affect the risks are lack of fluids, lack of air conditioning and physical activity.
To help avoid the risks of heat and humidity, seniors should wear lightweight clothing, put on a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors, take frequent water breaks and apply sunscreen. It’s best to remain indoors where it’s cool during the peak heat, usually from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Pay attention to signs of heat stroke. Older bodies have trouble regulating temperature. Seniors, the young, the obese and those 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 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 and cold and wet skin.
If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 immediately. To prevent heat stroke, drink large amounts of fluids to avoid dehydration, and decrease vigorous activities in hot and humid weather.
Risk factors for a heat-related illness include dehydration, chronic illnesses, prescription medications that reduce sweating, salt-restricted diets, overdressing, no access to air conditioning and drinking excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
In the absence of air conditioning, following are some alternate ways to keep cool.
• Place a bowl of ice-cold water in front of your fan.
• When you shower, turn on the bathroom fan.
• Drink cold water and put a cool cloth or two on your body.
• Turn off lights and powerful electronics.
• Sleep on thin cotton sheets.
• Use a microwave instead of a stove or oven.
• Eat cooling snacks.
• Do your errands in the early morning.
• When you’re outside and feel hot, put a cool washcloth around your neck.
• Sit with your feet in a pot of cool water.
• Wear light-colored layers of lightweight clothing.
• Take a cool shower or bath.