Heat Safety for Senior Citizens

Summer has arrived in a big way across San Antonio with record heat blanketing the region. We are right in the middle of our first heatwave of 2020, and it is a very dangerous one. With several more days of triple digits in the forecast, that means heat safety precautions need to be taken very seriously, especially when it comes to the elderly. Senior citizens are one age group which is highly susceptible to heat illness.

DIFFERENT KINDS OF HEAT ILLNESS

Not all heat illnesses are the same. Some can start off mild and rather unnoticed, but once they become severe, sometimes it is too late. “That is why it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms,” said Pride PHC Vice President Andres Cruz.

#1 HEAT RASH: A rash caused by excessive sweating during hot and sometimes humid weather. Symptoms include a cluster of blisters typically found on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts and in elbow creases.

#2 HEAT CRAMPS: This occurs when people over exert themselves and sweat profusely in the heat. This can be recognized by cramps in the arms, legs, or the abdomen.

#3 HEAT EXHAUSTION: This happens when the body becomes overheated. This is the last chance to catch the heat illness worsening before it turns into a potentially fatal heatstroke, but it can be prevented. Signs of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating, dizziness, fainting, a rapid pulse, muscle cramps, and a headache.

#4 HEAT STROKE: This results from prolonged exposure to extreme heat leading to dehydration and failure of the body to control its temperature. “With a heat stroke, the body reaches a temperature of 104 degrees affecting the nervous system. Nausea, seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness or a coma are all signs of heat stroke,” said Cruz.

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES 

All heat illnesses can be prevented. Even though heat kills more people in the U.S. than any other weather phenomenon, this can all be avoided if you are careful.

#1 DRINK WATER: Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water, especially if you are outside. Try to drink about four cups of water in an hour, or a small cup every 15 minutes. 

#2 WEAR LIGHT LAYERED, LIGHT COLORED CLOTHING: Lighter colors reflect more of the heat than darker colors, and light layers will still offer up some measure of protection to the sun. 

#3 WEAR SUNSCREEN: Not only does a sunburn hurt, but it prevents your body from cooling properly. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and reapply according to the directions.

#4 STAY INDOORS: While indoors, be sure you keep the air conditioner running. If you don’t have an air conditioner, open windows to allow for better airflow and have a box fan nearby. If you don’t have a box fan, you can call 211 to find out where you can get a free fan in San Antonio. Meantime, San Antonio’s Cooling Centers are now open to the public through Sunday, July 19th.

“The summer is always a challenging time for the elderly. On one hand, we don’t want seniors to be inside 24/7 because it can heighten feelings of loneliness and depression. On the other hand, the elderly is seriously at risk with too much sun exposure. So, be smart out there and take the appropriate precautions so that you can have a safe summer,” said Cruz.

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