Baby Care

San Antonio’s elderly are at high risk from the heat. How to help.

If you care for an elderly relative, or simply check up on a neighbor or family member from time to time, they need you now more than ever.

Why is hot weather more dangerous for old people?

As we age, our bodies don’t adjust as well to changes in temperature. The elderly also are more likely to have chronic medical conditions and to take prescription medications. Both can make it harder for the body to regulate temperature.

“Older people can have a tougher time dealing with heat and humidity,” says the National Institute on Aging. “The temperature inside or outside does not have to be high to put them at risk for a heat-related illness.”

What can I do?

If you’re responsible for an elderly person’s well-being, or simply concerned about them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends visiting or calling them at least twice a day during heat waves.

What should I ask?

Try to determine whether your family member, friend or neighbor is drinking enough water, whether their air conditioning is working and whether they’re showing signs of heat stress.

Also, find out what medicines they’re taking and whether any of those medicines affect body temperature.

Sustained high temperatures can overwhelm a person’s ability to cool down by perspiring. Older people are at elevated risk of suffering heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Pierre Longnus/Getty Images

What are the signs of heat-related illness?

Heat-related illnesses are known collectively as hyperthermia. The two most serious are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Signs of heat exhaustion are dizziness, fainting, headache, tiredness or weakness, nausea, vomiting, rapid or weak pulse, heavy sweating and cold, clammy skin.

Heat stroke is even more serious. It has all the symptoms of heat exhaustion plus very high body temperature (104 degrees or above). Someone suffering from heat stroke may be confused or even lose consciousness. Their pulse may become rapid and strong, and their skin may be flushed, hot and damp.

What should I do if I see signs of heat exhaustion?

Move the person to a cool place, loosen their clothing, have them sip water and have them take a cool bath,

If the symptoms last longer than an hour or get worse, or if the person begins to vomit, summon medical assistance immediately.

What about heat stroke?

Call 911 right away. Heat stroke is a medical emergency.

While you wait for help to arrive, try to cool the person down with a wet cloth or a cool bath. Do not give them anything to drink.

How can I intervene early, before an emergency develops?

The CDC suggests you consider having a temperature sensor installed in your elderly friend or family member’s home. That way, you could monitor conditions remotely and get an early warning in the event of danger.

The agency also advises developing a care plan for an elderly person to use during a heat wave or other emergency.  The plan should include contact information for family and friends and a list of medications the person uses and their medical conditions, among other things.

There’s a CDC template for a care plan here.

Who else is at high risk from extreme heat?

Children who are 4 years old or younger, people who are overweight and those who suffer from heart, lung or kidney disease or other chronic conditions.

Pregnancy is also a risk factor, because the body has to work harder to cool both the developing baby and the mother.

What’s the best advice for avoiding heat-related illness?

For all age groups, the surest way to stay out of danger during periods of extreme heat is to avoid strenuous outdoor activity, spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned places, stay hydrated by drinking regularly (don’t wait until you feel thirsty), avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, and wear light, loose-fitting clothes.

If you don’t have AC or your system dies, spend at least a few hours a day in a shopping mall, public library, senior center or other air-conditioned space. The city of San Antonio has an interactive map of cooling sites.

At home, avoid using your oven or stove to prepare meals, and don’t rely on household fans. They can make you feel more comfortable, but when the temperature gets into the high 90s, they will not protect you against heat-related illness.

And never leave children or pets in a parked car.

You can find additional tips from the CDC here and from the city’s Beat the Heat program here.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button