Heat illness occurs when your body can’t keep itself cool. As the temperature rises, your body produces sweat to stay cool. The heat index measures the air temperature plus the effects of humidity. If the temperature is 90 degrees, for instance, and the relative humidity is 70%, the air feels as though it’s 106 degrees. High humidity makes it harder for sweat to evaporate from the body. When your body can’t cool, your body temperature rises and you can become ill.
Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat illness and consist of painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after intense exercise and sweating in high heat. Treat heat cramps by drinking fluids or sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade or others. In addition, get into a cool, or air-conditioned area.
During extreme heat and humidity the body may not cool itself properly in spite of excessive sweating. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body’s temperature reaches 102 f. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. Treatment is the same for heat exhaustion as for heat cramps.
When the body’s heat-regulating system is overwhelmed by excessive heat, this is called heatstroke, or sunstroke. Heatstroke becomes a life-threatening emergency when the body’s temperature exceeds 104 f. Symptoms like agitation, confusion, delirium, nausea and vomiting, flushed yet dry skin, rapid breathing and racing heart begin to occur. This situation requires immediate medical attention. Call 911. When your body temperature gets this high damage to vital organs can occur and lead to death.
You May Be At Risk
Seniors and those with chronic medical conditions often have difficulty regulating their body temperature. This is due to medical conditions and prescription medicines that make it more difficult to keep cool.
- Avoid strenuous activity and stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day
- Drink plenty of cool water and avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Keep cool snacks like popsicles and frozen grapes on hand
- Light, cool meals like salads and sandwiches are better than hot, heavy entrees
- Use a cool washcloth on the back of your neck if you’re feeling hot, or put your feet in a pan of cool water.
- Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting cotton clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that protect against harmful UV-A and UV-B rays
Reminders! Be Cool!
Protect your skin with a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
Don’t forget the bug spray!
Never, ever leave anyone, or a pet, in a parked car even in the shade with the windows cracked.
By following just a few common sense precautions, you and your senior loved one are sure to have a safe and enjoyable summer.