Every year, thousands of people suffer from heat-related health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat causes more than 600 deaths every year. Heat-related illness is preventable, yet many people still become susceptible to heat-related illness, especially among the elderly.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at regulating temperature. Seniors over the age of 65 don’t sweat as much as younger adults. Sweating is one of the body’s most important heat-regulation mechanisms. Older adults also store fat differently, which further complicates heat-regulation in the body.
People at the greatest risk for heat-related illness can take the following protective actions to prevent illness or death:
- Stay Hydrated:
Drink plenty of water when you are out in the heat. Dehydration diminishes your ability to regulate temperature, and thus, your risk of developing a heat illness rises dramatically. Water is a great way to beat the heat or chose a sport-type drink (Gatorade, PowerAde, etc.) which includes electrolytes which the body loses when we perspire. It’s important to know that alcohol and caffeinated drinks can cause dehydration and should be avoided.
- Stay Indoors During Peak Heat Periods:
Plan outdoor activities when the temperatures are not at their midday peak. Stay inside during those periods in an air-conditioned structure. If your home isn’t equipped with an air conditioning unit, think about going to a public building to be in the cooler air.
- Plan Ahead:
If you know you will be outdoors during the peak temperature periods, wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and seek out the shade. Consider bringing an umbrella to create your own shade. A cooling neckband can also help keep you comfortable in warmer weather.
- Know the Symptoms:
Knowing the symptoms of heat-related issues can help save you or a loved one simply by knowing what to look for and how to act. Here’s a great infographic from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that outlines what to look for and what to do.
- Check on Family and Friends:
Make sure to check up on friends and family during extreme heat periods, especially if they live alone. By doing so, people are more likely to reciprocate and check up on you.
Heat-related illness is preventable in most cases by following these simple guidelines. If you know the signs and watch out for the symptoms, you too can beat the heat this summer.