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Safety for Seniors: Beat the Summer Heat

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The rising Texas temperatures are a relief after what felt like a very long, cold winter. While it’s great to see flowers blooming and sunshine, it’s also a good idea to prepare for the very hot days we will see over the next few months.

Hot summer temperatures and high humidity put people at risk for heat-related illness, and sadly, even death. Taking steps now to beat the Texas heat can be lifesaving!

Last year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned that Texas was one of three states in which 40 percent of heat-related deaths occurred between 1999-2009!

Seniors, age 65 years and older, were more likely to die from extreme heat; so were people who lived by themselves.

To Prevent Heat-Related Illness

If you have air conditioning at home, stay at home and cool off as often as you can. If you do not have air conditioning at home, you should:

  • Go to a place that is air conditioned, like a library or community center
  • Contact community resources by calling 2-1-1 or your Area Agency on Aging to see if they can help you.
  • Click here for information about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

It’s also important to drink water throughout the day! Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink. You can help yourself stay hydrated and cool off with these tips:

“Explore."
  • Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks.
  • Wear loose, light-colored, lightweight clothes.
  • Try not to be out during the hottest times of the day. Pace your activities!
  • If you are outside use sunscreen and stay out of direct sunlight.
  • Take cool showers or baths.
  • Check on elderly friends, neighbors and relatives to be sure they’re okay.

Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses

There are two main types of heat-related illness: Heat Stroke & Heat Exhaustion. Heat stroke is the most serious. Muscle cramps can be the first warning of being overheated.

If you see these signs

Do these things

   Heat Stroke:

  • High temperature over 103° F
  • Skin that feels hot, dry or moist and looks red
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • May become unconscious

 

 

  • Call 911 right away!
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Use cool, wet compresses to try to lower the body temperature
   Heat Exhaustion:

  • Sweating a lot
  • Feeling weak
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Skin feels cold, clammy, or looks pale
  • Nausea or throwing up
  • Fainting

 

  • Move to a cooler place
  • Lie down and loosen clothes
  • Put cool, wet cloths on as much of your body as you can
  • Take sips of water
  • If you are throwing up, get medical help right away

Click here for a short video from the CDC about staying cool in extreme heat.

About the author

Sonya Flanders, RN, ACNS-BC
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Sonya is an adult clinical nurse specialist with Baylor and moved to Texas from Canada to become a Baylor nurse. She's focused on enhancing health education of older adults along with their families and caregivers.

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Safety for Seniors: Beat the Summer Heat