We all know that hot weather can be dangerous. This is especially true for older adults.

Every summer, nearly 200 Americans die of health problems caused by heat and humidity. Many of these individuals happen to be age 50 or older.

Hot weather is more likely to cause health problems for older adults for a variety of reasons. These reasons include aging-related physical changes in the body, chronic health conditions and even side effects of taking some medications.

Staying safe when it’s too darn hot

When the temperature climbs above 90 degrees, older adults need to be proactive and take precautions. So check the outside temperature and if it’s above 90 degrees, keep the following tips in mind:

• Stay out of the sun as much as possible. If possible, go out in the early morning or when the sun starts to set.

• Air conditioning is your friend. Spend time in the air conditioned spaces. If you don’t have air conditioning, go where they have it: Library, Walk around in the mall, Go to a movie theatre and Join friends at the Sr. center.

• Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of cool water, clear juices and other liquids that do not contain alcohol or caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine dehydrate a person, drying you out.

• Dress appropriately. Whenever you can, wear loose, light-colored clothes. Top it off with a lightweight, broad-brimmed hat. These simple changes can help you stay cool and avoid sunburn. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher.

• Cool down. Take tepid showers, baths, or sponge baths when you’re feeling warm. Also, use wet washcloths with cool water and put them on your neck, ankles, wrists and forehead.

How to spot and treat health problems caused by heat

It is important to recognize when hot weather is making you sick, and when to get help. Here are some health problems caused by too much heat:

• Dehydration: A loss of water in your body. Warning signs: weakness, headache, muscle cramps, confusion, dizziness and passing out. What to do: Call your healthcare provider or 911. Meanwhile drink plenty of water and if possible, “sports drinks” including Gatorade.

• Heat Stroke: A very dangerous rise in your body temperature. This can be deadly. Warning signs: A body temperature of 103 or higher, red, hot, and dry skin; a fast pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and passing out. What to do: Call 911 immediately. Move to a cool, shady place, take off or loosen heavy closing. Douse yourself with cool water and if you can safely swallow, drink water or a sports drink.

• Heat exhaustion: A serious problem caused by too much heat and dehydration. If not treated, this can lead to heat stroke. Warning signs: Heavy sweating or no sweating, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, cold and clammy skin, paleness, vomiting and fainting. What to do: Without delay, move to a cool shady place. Drink plenty of cool liquids. Call 911 without delay if you have high blood pressure or heart problems, or after drinking cool liquids and moving to the shade, you don’t feel better quickly.

We all want to enjoy the summer, but please keep in mind the signs of too much sun and high temperatures. We all want to be safe.

Pam Meyer is the wellness director at Benedictine Living Community of Wahpeton.


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