Hot weather means trips to the beach and backyard barbecues — but for some, it can also mean the risk of a serious heat-related illness. According to the CDC, extreme summer heat kills 618 people in the United States each year. Learn the risks and warning signs to protect yourself against summer dangers.
Who Is at Risk During the Summer?
Certain people are especially vulnerable to extreme heat, including seniors, small children, athletes and low-income households.
One study found that 40% of all heat-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65. This is likely because older people have a harder time detecting temperature changes in body, and underlying health conditions in seniors can make them more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
Personal factors can also contribute to your risk of heat-related illness, including:
- Living in a high humidity area
- Drug use
- Heart disease
- Poor circulation
Although some people are more vulnerable, heat-related illness can happen to anyone. No matter who you are, take precautions against heat dangers to help ensure the your safety.
Tips for Staying Safe
Stay safe during the harshest summer temperatures this year. Here are some tips for keeping cool in the heat:
Maintain Your AC Unit
Keep your air-conditioning unit running smoothly this summer with simple regular maintenance. Always turn off the power before working on your air conditioning system. Check for leaves and debris inside of the unit and use a strong stream on a garden hose to clean the fins. Keep the area around the unit free of leaves and debris. Be sure to keep up with regular filter changes.
Go Somewhere Cool
If your AC breaks and you have access to transportation, go somewhere cool (such as a public library, community center or friend’s house) until the sun goes down. Be sure to keep your house closed and blinds closed when you leave to keep out heat and humidity.
Keep Blinds Closed
If you have to stay home, close all the blinds in the house until late afternoon. Heat can enter the house through the sun’s rays. Once the sun sets, you can open up your home and use window fans for a cooling cross-ventilation.
Keep Your Fans On
Fans help circulate air through your home, keeping it cooler. Moving air also helps evaporate moisture off of your skin, lowering your overall body temperature.
Put a Fan In Your Attic
Opening your attic door and putting a fan in your attic will help draw the hot air up and out of your home, leaving cooler air below.
Avoid exercise or strenuous physical activity. Move exercise routines to the morning or evening, before the outdoor temperature heats up. Over-exerting yourself in the heat can lead to serious problems, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Visit Elderly Friends and Family
Make a point to visit your elderly friends, family and neighbors on hot days, especially if they live alone. Seniors generally have lower mobility to open windows and turn on fans to cool down a hot house. They may also be less able to detect changing temperature or symptoms of dehydration in their bodies.
Older adults are also more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration or heat exhaustion. When you visit, make sure their homes are well-cooled and they are drinking enough water.
Drink Plenty of Water
Stay hydrated! Studies have shown that up to 75% of people are chronically dehydrated, which is especially dangerous on a hot day. The body needs plenty of water to properly regulate the body temperature, and dehydration can significantly increase the risk of overheating.
Signs of Heat-Related Illness
Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to serious conditions that require immediate attention. If someone you are with is experiencing any of these symptoms, they may be experiencing heat exhaustion.
- Pale, clammy skin
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Elevated body temperature
Cool them down immediately by getting them out of the heat and spraying or dousing them with cold water. Seek emergency help if the symptoms do not improve within 15 minutes. Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a more severe heat-related illness that can lead to serious complications and death.
If someone you are with is experiencing any of these symptoms, they may be experiencing heat stroke. If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 immediately.
- Throbbing headache
- Red, hot and dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Shallow breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit
While you are waiting for emergency responders, administer first aid to help bring the person’s body temperature down.
Cool the person’s body down with water, and apply ice packs to the person’s armpits, neck, back and groin. If the person is young and healthy, immerse them in a cold-water or ice bath.
Check out these additional resources to learn more about staying healthy this summer:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Get facts about extreme heat and learn more about how to prevent yourself from dangerous consequences.
- The National Weather Service – Get maximum heat forecasts and monitor the UV index in your area.
- Occupational Health and Safety Administration – Get information and resources about job-related heat stress.
- Travel Safety Guide – Information to help keep seniors and anyone else safe throughout summer vacations and other trips.
*This content is not medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
A Place for Mom: http://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/elderly-heat-stroke
Web MD: www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/heat-exhaustion