Summer Heat Should Be Enjoyed in Moderation
After such a cool and damp spring the sunshine and hot weather is quite a treat! Unfortunately, like all treats, the heat should be enjoyed in moderation. According to the National Safety Council, everyone is at risk for heat-related illnesses. After getting woozy one hot summer day my hat and water bottle are my best summertime friends!
According to the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA), senior citizens are often at greater risk for heat related illnesses. As we age, our body is more easily overwhelmed by heat-a condition known as hyperthermia. (We experience hypOthermia when our bodies are too cold.) Hot, humid weather makes it harder for our body to cool down.
Other factors that increase our risk of overheating include:
- Wearing heavy, tight clothing that doesn’t breathe, prevents sweat from evaporating.
- Disorders with the heart, lung, or kidneys can interfere with our body’s ability to cool itself.
- Aging decreases our thirst which increases the risk for dehydration,
- We tend to lose sweat glands as we age and sweat less,
- Obesity interferes with heat loss.
- Drinking alcohol increases dehydration and impairs judgement telling us to get out of the heat
Heat-related illnesses require immediate medical attention. It is essential to recognize the warning signs, including:
- Blurred vision
- Muscle aches
- Fever (generally above 104 degrees),
- Confusion or combativeness,
- Strong, rapid pulse,
- Dry, flushed skin,
- Lack of sweating,
- Feeling faint,
Anyone who may be suffering from a heat-related illness should go to a shady or air-conditioned spot and told to lie down. A cold, wet cloth should be applied to the wrists, neck, armpits, and groin to help cool the blood. If the person can swallow, they should be given fluids, like water or apple juice. Contact your doctor.
Plan ahead when hot and humid weather is expected.
- Pay attention to the local weather forecast.
- Stay in an air-conditioned place. If no air conditioning is available at home, go to a local senior center, library, mall, or cooling center.
- Drink fluids throughout the day, even if you are not thirsty.
- Eat frequent, small meals.
- Dress in lightweight, lightly colored, loosely fitting clothing.
- During the hottest times, stay indoors and postpone exercise.
- Don’t leave a senior, child or pet in a closed car. In hot weather, the interior temperature of a closed car can rise from 80 to 120° F in as little as 15 minutes.
- If you must work outside, do so with a buddy and wear a broad brimmed hat
- Create an emergency kit, in case there’s a power outage.
Check frequently on family, friends, neighbors, and pets. This includes folks that live in nursing homes. Nursing homes do their best to keep residents comfortable year-round. Nursing home residents have a right to heat relief. When the outdoor temperature is over 80 degrees, nursing homes are required to provide an air-conditioned room that residents can go into. Facilities are not required to provide air conditioning in the individual resident rooms-but many do.
Rhode Island General Law §23-17.5-27 defines a nursing home resident’s right to heat relief in the following way:
“Any nursing facility which does not provide air conditioning in every patient room shall provide an air conditioned room or rooms in a residential section, or sections of the facility to provide relief to patients when the outdoor temperature exceeds eighty (80) degrees Fahrenheit.