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Every year thousands of people suffer from heat-related conditions (hyperthermia) like heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year around 300 people in the U.S. die from excessive heat exposure.  Most of these individuals happen to be age 50 or older.  Older adults are more susceptible as their bodies return to normal temperatures more slowly and their bodies’ cooling mechanism is not as efficient.  Being overweight, having poor circulation, chronic medical conditions and high blood pressure or taking certain medications can also increase risk.  Very high body temperatures may damage the brain and vital organs.

Protect yourself with these prevention tips:

  • STAY OUT OF THE SUN – During times of extreme heat temperatures, stay indoors. The sun is hottest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Adjusting when you go outside could mean a difference of several degrees.
  • AIR CONDITIONING – Air conditioning is the primary factor against heat-related illness and death. Spend as much time as possible in air conditioned spaces.  If you don’t have an air conditioner, go somewhere that is air conditioned such as the library, indoor mall or a movie theater.
  • STAY HYDRATED – Drink plenty of cool water, clear juices, and other liquids that don’t contain alcohol or caffeine. Dehydration is common among older adults and can be life threatening.  Don’t wait to drink until you are thirsty as that can be a sign of dehydration.
  • DRESS APPROPRIATELY – When outdoors wear light colored, loose clothing. Dark colored clothes absorb heat.  Wear sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.
  • ALWAYS WEAR SUNSCREEN – Sunburn damages your skin, causes a loss of body fluids and affects your body’s ability to cool itself. Use “broad spectrum” sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • COOL DOWN – Take tepid showers, baths, or sponge baths when you’re feeling warm. Or, you can wet washcloths or towels with cool water and put them on your wrists, ankles, armpits, and neck.

During hot summer months, our elderly loved ones, friends and neighbors are more susceptible to heat related illnesses and injuries.  If you have elderly relatives or neighbors, you should visit those at risk at least twice a day and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  If you see any signs of severe heat stress, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency.  Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the affected person.  If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.

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