Hot weather can be very dangerous for senior citizens. Seniors tend to be more prone to heat-related health problems than younger people due to bodies that are less able to fend off the heat. Below are some heat related illnesses to watch for and some measures you can take to help avoid these illnesses.
Heat Cramps: Signs of heat cramps include painful muscle contractions, usually in the hamstring muscles. Sometimes this can be a precursor to heat exhaustion or heatstroke, but not always. In the case of heat cramps make sure you cool yourself down immediately.
Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion typically is accompanied with several symptoms. These symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, faintness, headache, pale and clammy skin, rapid and weak pulse, fast and shallow breathing, muscle cramps, and intense thirst. If you think you are experiencing heat exhaustion you need to seek medical attention immediately!
Heatstroke: Heatstroke can be very dangerous and life threatening. Heatstroke is often preceded by heat exhaustion and its symptoms. Other warning signs for heatstroke include skin that is hot, dry, and flushed with no sweating, high body temperatures, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. In the case of heatstroke you need to call 911 immediately! This is a serious medical emergency that can lead to death. While waiting for help make sure to get out of the sun or heat, drink fluids, and lie down with a cool washcloth on your face and neck.
Here are some ways seniors can avoid the above conditions and maintain their well being in hot weather:
Watch What You Drink: Do not wait till you are thirsty to drink water. Drink plenty of water before and while you are out in the heat. You lose a lot of water through perspiration. Make sure to carry a water bottle with you. Make sure to avoid alcohol and caffeine if you will be out in the heat. These tend to dehydrate you more, causing your body to lose more water.
Stay Cool: Make sure you are staying in a well ventilated area. Circulation of air helps keep you cool. Make sure to open a window, turn on a fan, or an air conditioner to keep your body cooler. Make sure you also wear loose fitting, light-colored clothing. When you are going out in the sun, wear sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat. Make sure to also avoid unnecessary activity.
Know Your Medication: Certain medications may affect your reaction to the sun and heat. Make sure to ask your doctor about any heat related complications with any medications you are currently on.
Have Someone Check Up On You: Make sure to have a friend or family member regularly come by to check up on you at different times of the day when the temperatures are high. Get them to make sure you are drinking enough fluids and staying cool.
Plan Ahead: Make sure that you plan your outside activities for times in the day when it is coolest. Usually early in the morning or later in the evening are the best times to be outside. Make sure to take your time while outside and not over exert yourself.