Advice on Staying Safe in Hot Weather
Summer is here and it’s blazing hot! It’s important to be aware of the health risks that higher temperatures can bring. Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible to hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses. Learn the signs of heat-related side effects, recognize increased risk factors, know how to take preventive measures and know what tools you can use in case of an emergency.
Heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are forms of hyperthermia, which is caused by a failure of the body’s heat-regulating mechanisms to deal with a hot environment.
There are many things that can increase risk for hyperthermia, including:
- Changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat production
- Use of certain medications
- Reduced sweating caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and certain heart and blood pressure drugs
- High blood pressure or other health conditions that require changes in diet - people on salt-restricted diets may be at increased risk; however, salt pills should not be used without first consulting a doctor.
- Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever
- Being substantially overweight or underweight
- Alcohol use
Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its temperature. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:
- An increase in body temperature (generally above 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Mental status changes (such as confusion or combativeness)
- Strong rapid pulse
- Dry flushed skin
- Lack of sweating
- Feeling faint
It’s critical to seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with heat stroke symptoms, especially an older adult.
If you suspect that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:
- Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned or cool place. Urge them to lie down.
- Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits and groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin, and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
- If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water if it’s safe to do so.
- Call 911 only if you suspect heat stroke.
Despite knowing the symptoms and ways to prevent heat stroke, having a medical alert system might be another way to give you or your loved one peace of mind. CareLink offers several personal emergency response systems that can provide immediate 24/7 assistance in the event of a medical emergency. These devices provide hands-free, two-way voice communication and are water resistant, perfect for those summer days that might get a little too hot. Learn more about CareLink services at BayCare.