By Diana Reynoso
Excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods. A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally 10 degrees or more above average, often combined with excessive humidity. Hot weather is dangerous, and seniors are particularly prone to its threat.
Elderly heat stroke and heat exhaustion are real problems. There are several reasons for elderly heat vulnerability. People’s ability to notice changes in their body temperature decreases with age. Many seniors also have underlying health conditions that make them less able to adapt to heat. Furthermore, many medicines that seniors take can contribute to dehydration. Fortunately a few simple precautions are all that’s needed to keep safe. Below are a few tips to stay cool.
Drink plenty of liquids
Dehydration is the root of many heat related health problems. Drink plenty of water or juice, even if you’re not thirsty. But remember to avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, as they can actually contribute to dehydration.
Wear appropriate clothes
When it’s hot out, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and a wide-brimmed hat.
Stay indoors during the mid-day
During periods of extreme heat, the best time to run errands or be outdoors is before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m., when the temperature tends to be cooler.
Know the warning signs of heat-related illness
Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and breathing problems are all warning signs. Seek help immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Seek air-conditioned environments
Seniors whose houses aren’t air-conditioned should consider finding an air-conditioned place to spend time during extreme heat. Seniors without convenient access to any air-conditioned place might consider a cool bath or shower.
If you are a City of Alexandria resident, you might be eligible to receive a fan or air conditioner. You must be 60 years of age or older and meet certain income guidelines. To see if you qualify, contact the Division of Aging and Adult Services at 703-746-5999.
The writer is an aging specialist with the Division of Aging and Adult Services in the Department of Community and Human Services.