Heat Awareness and Safety for Seniors

Blog written by Maeve Smith, CSR for National Contracting Center and AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor (GFI) / Senior Fitness

The familiar sounds of cicadas, pond frogs and crickets are all synonymous with summer, much like hot temperatures and humidity. The heat of summer, specifically in the southern U.S., can be unrelenting. Older adults are among the population most at risk for experiencing adverse effects like heat stroke and other heat related illnesses. These types of illnesses are caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures. According to mayoclinic.org, a person’s central nervous system dictates how well one can tolerate heat. As we age, our CNS tends to be more compromised which can make it more difficult for the body to efficiently regulate changes in body temperature.

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke can include, but are not limited to, headache, nausea, high body temperature, cramps, dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness. The CDC offers a complete list of warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.

Heat Stroke Warning

It is imperative that someone with suspected symptoms of heat stroke (also called sunstroke) seek medical attention immediately.

In addition to heat stroke, other types of heat-related illnesses include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn, and heat rash. It is important to note that heat related illnesses (hyperthermia) are preventable.

Here are a few tips to help keep you safe from the heat while still enjoying the summer months:

1. Know the weather. Pay attention to weather warnings that recommend staying indoors due to hot temperatures, high humidity or bad air quality. Check out the AirVisual Air Quality Forecast app for weather and air quality in your area. Also pay attention to the reported heat index. A heat index of 90 degrees or more can greatly increase the risk of heat related illnesses.

2. Dress accordingly. Wear breathable, loose-fitting clothing on days that are warmer than usual.

3. Wear sunscreen. Apply sunscreen with at least SPF of 30 when heading outdoors.

Water Hydration

4. Stay hydrated. Keep your body hydrated with water and/or non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic drinks. If you are on restricted liquids always consult your doctor.

5. Be aware of your prescriptions. Some medications can put you at a higher risk for heat related illnesses such as diuretics, beta blockers, and antidepressants. Check with your doctor.

6. Avoid strenuous or prolonged activity outdoors. Save gardening, outdoor yoga, bird watching, walking and other outdoor activities for early morning or evening hours when it is much cooler.

7. Stay indoors. When the temperature is hot outdoors, stay indoors where it is cool. Make an effort to keep your window treatments pulled to help maintain a cooler indoor temperature.

8. Stay connected. Keep in touch with loved ones and always check in.

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