Stay Safe in the Heat

Stay Safe in the Heat
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The heat isn’t something to take lightly, especially if you’re an older adult. Older adults are more prone to getting sick from extreme heat because as we age, our bodies cannot handle the heat like it used to. Also, naturally, older adults are more common to have chronic health problems that they have to take medications for and certain medications can affect the body’s ability to deal with the heat. Aside from aging and medication, why is the heat harder on older adults?

Cooling down is harder

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body cannot fight the heat and has a hard time cooling down. We cool ourselves down by sweating, and that gets harder with age due to our sweat glands being less effective.

Certain medications can also interfere with how the body sweats, losing the ability to cool itself down.

The heat impacts the heart

Along with sweating, the body releases heat by increasing the blood flow to the skin, and if you’re someone with heart disease, putting pressure on your already weaker than normal heart can be dangerous. According to the CDC about 20 million adults in the US have some sort of heart disease, and those fighting it have a hard time dealing with the extreme heat.

Dehydration

We already hear about how its important to drink water when its hot out and that’s because you need fluid in your body to produce sweat which, in turn, cools your body down. A mixture of a decrease in thirst as well as certain medications, like diuretics and ibuprofen, can complicate hydration due to the affects they have on the body.

So, what can you do to beat the heat?

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Pay attention to humidity

Everyone handles heat differently, depending on what you’re used to and where you live. But, it is important to pay attention to the humidity level because sweat has a hard time evaporating into air (humidity) that has a lot of water in it. The higher the humidity, the hotter it will feel and can cause a potential threat.

Talk to your doctor about your medications

Ask your doctor about any medications you are on and how it mixes with the heat. Knowing what they do to your body can help you prepare.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Most of us don’t drink water until we feel thirsty, but sometimes that means we’re already dehydrated. Take a look at the color of your urine, that’s a good indicator on whether or not you’re well hydrated. If its pale yellow you are good to go, if it’s a darker yellow or orange color, drink up! If drinking water is hard for you to do, mix it up by having fresh fruit or add mixers into water like crystal light.

Pay attention to the thermostat

If your thermostat is over 80 degrees and especially if you have a chronic health condition, lower your air conditioning. Not doing so could put you at a higher risk for heat-related illnesses.

Have a backup plan incase your air goes out

It may be a good idea to have a back up plan when it comes to the heat. Have a place to go when your air conditioning breaks so you’re not stuck in the heat.
Know the warning signs of heat illness

There are differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Know the difference between the two and what to do if you’re experiencing either:

Heat Exhaustion

  • faintness
  • dizziness
  • excessive sweating
  • rapid weak pulse
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms move to a cool space, drink water and use a cold compress to cool your body down.

Heat Stroke

  • headache
  • confusion
  • red, hot skin
  • nausea
  • rapid strong pulse
  • body temperature above 103 degrees

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 and move the person to a cool place.

Source: https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2022/heat-wave-dangers.html?cmp=SNO-ICM-FB-CAT-HLTH&socialid=10871461292

Photos provided by: Adobe Stock