Help prevent heat stress
Sharon Congleton, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) health promotion nurse supervisor, says that senior citizens, young children and people with chronic health conditions are at a greater risk heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or heat stress. “It is important for older adults to understand the dangers and potential complications that can occur from being exposed to severe heat. Older adults also need to know what they can do to prevent heat stress from occurring,” she said.
Following are hot weather safety tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and PCA’s Sharon Congleton:
Know when to ask for help. Symptoms of heat stress can include: loss of energy, loss of appetite, upset stomach, lightheadedness, prickly heat, heat cramps, heavy sweating, thirst, feeling faint, giddiness, confusion and/or nausea. If you or someone you know experiences one or more of these symptoms, move to a cool location and rest. Drink more fluids and remove any excess clothing. Call 911, if symptoms include any of the following: lack of sweat; combative behavior; hot, dry, flushed skin; body temperature of 105 degrees or above; throbbing headache; rapid heartbeat or breathing; convulsions; staggering; loss of consciousness; and/or confusion.
Check on elderly and homebound neighbors. Make sure they have enough to drink and check the conditions inside the home; fans should not be used inside a home with windows closed; this circulates hot air and creates a convection oven effect.
To avoid heat stress and dehydration:
Drink lots of water. Even if you’re not thirsty, drink a glass of cold water every 15 to 20 minutes.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can cause your body to lose water; in hot weather, it is easy to become dehydrated, which is very dangerous to your health.
Stay cool. Turn on the air conditioning – don’t try to save on energy bills during a heat wave. If you don’t have air conditioning, go somewhere that is air-conditioned, like a neighbor’s house, senior center, public library or shopping mall. If you can’t get out of the house, stay on a lower floor, where it’s cooler and open the windows. Use a fan only if the outside air is cooler than the inside air, and do not use a fan with the windows closed. Also, keep curtains or blinds closed during daylight hours to block out the sun.
Take a cool shower or bath, which can be more effective at cooling you down than using a fan.
Dress cool by wearing loose, light-colored clothing, which allows air to circulate and helps the body throw off heat. Also, wear a wide-brimmed hat outside.
Avoid the sun. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes loss of fluids. If you must be outdoors, apply sunblock with SPF 15 or greater. Stay in shaded areas when possible or use an umbrella. Best of all, plan outdoor activities in the early morning or evenings, when the sun is not as strong and temperatures are cooler.
Pace yourself. Rest often in cool or shaded areas. Also, limit physical activity during periods of high heat and sun.
Eat lightly. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals. Use your stove and oven less to keep room temperatures lower. If you must heat food, use a microwave. Add cool foods to your diet, like watermelon, cantaloupe, Jell-O or other fruits.
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