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King Farm Blog

IKF Blog
Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015

Stay safe during the summer heat!

It’s hot! We all like to get outside during the summer months, but high temperatures can pose health risks for older people and those with chronic health conditions. You don’t have to become a victim if you know how to avoid the hazards of hot weather, and you can help others by knowing the risks and symptoms of heat-caused conditions and what to do if someone you know develops them.

Older adults are especially susceptible to hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses. Hyperthermia is caused by a failure of the body’s heat-regulating mechanisms. Heat fatigue, heat syncope—sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to heat, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all forms of hyperthermia.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia that occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat. Symptoms include an increase in body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, confusion, combativeness or other changes in mental status, strong, rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry, flushed skin, feeling faint, staggering and coma. Anyone with heat stroke symptoms should seek immediate emergency medical attention.

Factors that increase the risk of hyperthermia may include dehydration, high blood pressure, heart, lung and kidney disease, illnesses that cause general weakness or fever, use of multiple medications, reduced sweating that may be caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and certain heart and blood pressure drugs, poor circulation, being substantially overweight or underweight, and alcohol use.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has some tips to help you avoid the hazards of hot weather:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Try to avoid places that don't have air conditioning, and visit places that do have air conditioning such as senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters and libraries.
  • Don't overdress. If you think the temperature is going to vary or you're going to be in a highly air-conditioned setting, dress in layers that you can remove in the heat.
  • Avoid overcrowded places.
  • Don't exercise outdoors on super-hot days. Move your exercise routine indoors—for example, walk the halls of your building, take a swim or use the gym. If you do want to take a walk outside, take frequent "shade breaks" to cool off.
  • Stay indoors in cooler spaces on hot and humid days, especially when an air pollution alert is in effect.

If you suspect that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:

  • Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned or other cool place. Urge them to lie down.
  • If you suspect heat stroke, call 911.
  • Encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water if it is safe to do so.
  • Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits and/or groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin, and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
  • If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
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