As we age, our ability to adequately respond to summer heat can become a serious problem. Older people are at significant increased risk of heat-related illnesses, known collectively as hyperthermia, during the summer months. Hyperthermia can include heat stroke, heat edema (swelling in your ankles and feet when you get hot), heat syncope (sudden dizziness after exercising in the heat), heat cramps, and heat exhaustion.
During the summer months, staying hydrated is more important than ever, especially during days when the heat index soars to triple digits. The reason for this is simple: Dehydration diminishes your ability to regulate temperature which increases your risk of developing a heat illness rises dramatically.
Heat illnesses are of special concern to senior citizens, because older adults are much more affected by summer heat. For instance, from 1999-2009, roughly 40 percent of all heat-related deaths in the U.S. – nearly 3,000 – were adults over 65 years old.
What Can You Do To Combat Heat Stress?
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
- Do not rely on a fan as your main cooling source when it’s really hot outside.
- Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to
- If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather.
- Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
- Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.
- Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
What You Can Do for Someone With Heat Stress
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