Thursday, July 12, 2018

'Stay cool, stay hydrated and stay informed' to avoid heat-related illnesses in summer, which CDC says kill over 600 a year

Summer is a time to head outdoors and enjoy the hot weather, but it's important to remember that those warm days we love so much can also be dangerous, especially for older people.

More than 600 people a year die from heat-related illnesses, and most of them are seniors, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

The CDC says most of those deaths and heat-related illnesses are preventable if you "take measures to stay cool, remain hydrated and stay informed."

Heat-related illnesses happen when the body isn't able to properly cool itself, and can range from milder conditions (fainting, dizziness, heat rashes and cramps) to heat exhaustion. The most serious heat-related illness is heat stroke.

The CDC says one of the main things that affects a person's ability to cool down during hot weather is high humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat doesn't evaporate as quickly as it normally does, and it's the evaporation that keeps us cool.

Other factors that put a person at risk of heat-related illnesses are age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.

Older adults, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at the highest risk, which are often groups that depend on others for their care.

The National Institutes of Health adds that seniors are particularly at risk for heat-related illnesses because they often have age-related changes their skin, such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands. In addition, seniors with heart, lung and kidney diseases are at increased risk, as are those with high blood pressure. NIH also notes that seniors who take diuretics, sedatives and tranquilizers, as well as multiple medications are at increased risk of getting a heat-related illnesses.

The CDC suggests checking on people in high-risk groups at least twice a day when it's hot outside, and to make sure you ask these four questions: Are they drinking enough water? Do they have access to air conditioning? Do they know how to keep cool? and Do they show any signs of heat stress?

The most common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are excessive sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast, but weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness, headache and fainting.

The signs and symptoms of heat stroke -- which requires immediate medical attention -- are high body temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher); hot red, dry or damp skin; a fast, strong pulse; headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and passing out.

The CDC offers tips for everyone to follow to avoid heat-related death or illness, as well as some just for seniors and those in those high risk groups.

Tips for everyone:
  • Stay in air-conditioned locations as much as possible
  • Limit outdoor activity, especially during midday when the sun is hottest
  • Pace activity, start slow and gradually pick up the pace
  • Drink more water than usual, and don't wait until you are thirsty to drink
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen as needed
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates
Additional tips for those most at risk:
  • If you don't have air conditioning in your home, contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area. Public facilities, like malls and libraries, are also available, as is the air-conditioning in vehicles.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event
  • If your doctor limits your fluids, or has you on water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather.
  • Check on friends and neighbors, and have someone do the same for you
  • Don't use the stove or oven to cook, it only makes your house hotter.
  • Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest
It's also important to never leave children or pets in cars. As of July 3 in the U.S., 21 children had died of vehicular heatstroke this year, according to a

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