Ways to Survive the Heat

Aging Matters

    It's not even summer and parts of the country struggle with record highs. Hot weather is a big concern for older adults, especially those living with chronic medical conditions. The factors that directly affect the risks are lack of fluids, absence of cold air-conditioning, excessive clothing, overcrowded places, and physical inactivity.

    If you have a chronic condition, here are a few ways to avoid the risks of heat and humidity. Wear lightweight clothing, put on a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors, take frequent water breaks, apply sunscreen, and never leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle. But stay indoors where it's cool during the peak heat, 10 AM to 5 PM. If you do not have air conditioning, visit public places like the local library, the shopping mall, the local senior center, or movie theaters.

    Pay attention to signs of heat stroke

    Older bodies have trouble regulating its temperature. The elderly, the young, the obese, and individuals living with compromised immune systems are at greater risk. High humidity interferes with evaporation of sweat, a body's way of cooling itself. Be cautious and pay attention to the warning signs and symptoms of a heat stroke:

    • Body temperature at or over 103°F
    • Dry (hot and red) skin
    • Fast pulse
    • Excruciating headache
    • Dizziness, vomiting, and nausea
    • Extreme sweating
    • A light or whitish colored skin
    • Severe muscle cramps
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Cold and wet skin

    If you suspect a heat stroke, call (911) immediately. To prevent a heat stroke, drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration and lessen vigorous activities in hot and humid weather.

    Risk factors of a heat-related illness:

    • Dehydration
    • Chronic illnesses (heart and kidney diseases; blood circulation conditions)
    • Prescription medications that reduce sweating
    • Salt-restricted diets
    • Overdressing
    • No access to air-conditioning
    • Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol

    Home Cooling Ideas

    • Place a bowl of ice-cold water in front of your box or pedestal fan, it will create a chilly breeze.
    • When you shower, turn on the bathroom fan.
    • Drink cold water and put a cold cloth or two on your body.
    • Lessen heat in the home by turning lights and powerful electronics off.
    • Use your thinnest set of cotton sheets, not flannel.
    • Eat meals that don't need cooking on the stove or oven. Use a microwave instead.

    Other Practices to Follow

    • Go out early morning if you go out at all
    • Drink plenty of cool water
    • Eat cooling snacks
    • When outside and feel hot, put a cool wash cloth around the neck
    • Sit and put the feet in a pot of cool water
    • Wear light-colored layers of lightweight clothing
    • Take a cool shower, bath, or wash cloth wipe-down

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    Carol Marak, aging advocate and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

    Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

    Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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