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A Guide to Summer Heat Safety

Extreme summer temperatures can be dangerous and potentially life threatening for many individuals, particularly for those at a higher risk for heat related illness. Most heat-related deaths occur when people are indoors without air conditioning, and illnesses related to high heat may not be evident for several days.

Why are older adults more prone to heat stress?

thermostat

One reason is that seniors do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. They also are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes bodily response to heat. Plus, the elderly probably take prescription medicines which may affect their body’s ability to regulate temperature and sweat. That’s why it is especially important to take proactive care during heat waves.

no matter your age—Stay cool & stay hydrated

  • Stay in air conditioned buildings as much as possible. Here’s a map of NYC cooling centers if your home doesn’t have AC

  • Do not rely on a fan as your only cooling source when it’s really hot outside

  • Drink more water than usual; Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink (***If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or prescribed you water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather)

  • If possible, avoid using the oven

  • Wear your coolest clothes: Choose loose, breathable, lightweight, light-colored clothing

  • Avoid strenuous activities—they can wait until another time!

  • Take a cool shower or pat yourself with a damp cloth to cool off

  • Rest!

  • Check in with your friends, family, and neighbors—and have them do the same for you!

elderly man in the heat

Heat-Related Conditions

Knowing the warning signs for heat-related conditions can help you identify potentially dangerous situations and act quickly.

Heat Cramps

People who sweat a lot during strenuous activity are prone to heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion. People with heart problems or those on a low-sodium diet should seek medical attention for heat cramps.

Symptoms

Muscle pain or spasms - usually in the abdomen, arms or legs.  

management

Sit and rest in a cool place, and drink water, clear juice, or a sports drink. Don’t continue the strenuous activity for several hours.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a mild form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people and those with high blood pressure.

Symptoms

Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and fainting. Skin may be cool and moist. Pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.

management

Get in air conditioning, drink cool water, rest. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist more than an hour.

Heat Stroke   

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Symptoms

An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F), red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating), rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.

management

Have someone call for immediate medical assistance. Simultaneously move to a shady area and have people cool you down as fast as possible (sponge, spray, or bathe in cool water, take a cool shower, wrap in a cool wet cloth).

For more summer tips, check out our blog about hydration.

Information in this article is from resources by the New York State Department of Health.

CenterLight Teamcare is committed to providing accurate health-related information to help individuals live well, stay healthy and make well-informed healthcare decisions. Information in this material is strictly educational. We recommend that users consult with their doctor regarding their care. If you would like to learn more about CenterLight Teamcare, please call: 1-877-212-8877 (TTY 711), 8AM - 8PM, Monday - Friday. Representatives or message service also available on weekends.

H3329_2019_BLOGHeatSafety Approved 09112019

Last updated August 28, 2019

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