Last month New York City experienced it’s first heat-related death of 2018 when a 71-year-old man died of hypothermia while sitting in a parked car in Queens. In Woodland, Calif., a 63-year-old postal worker died in her delivery truck on an afternoon when the outside temperature reached 115 degrees. And in Tipton, Pa., a 64-year-old woman succumbed to heat stroke after gardening for several hours outside her home.
If current weather trends continue, 2018 will be the fourth hottest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Warm temperatures in the summer months create health risks for everyone, but particularly for seniors. The U.S. National Institute on Aging recently warned that older individuals are at “significant increased risk of heat-related illnesses” during the summer months.
So far this year over 70 people have died in Canada as a result high heat levels this summer. According to a recent report on Canada’s heat wave from National Public Radio, Canada’s elderly population was most at risk of heat-related death. The majority of people who died, NPR reported, were “elderly men and women living alone in apartments with no air conditioning, and many had chronic health conditions.”
Here are several measures seniors can take to guard their health during the summer heat.
- Schedule outside activities such as gardening or exercise during the cooler times of the day.
- Seek out cool locales. When outside, stay in the shade. Seniors whose homes lack air conditioning should head for air-conditioned spaces such as shopping malls, libraries, movie theaters or community centers.
- Consider a cool shower or bath for temporary relief from the heat.
- Drink plenty of liquids but avoid caffeine and alcohol, both of which are diuretics that can cause dehydration.
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing. When outside, wear a hat or use an umbrella to ward off the sun.
- Pay attention to the body’s warning signs. Dizziness, nausea, headache, or breathing problems are reasons to immediately seek medical attention.
Relatives of older individuals should be sure to check on them regularly during the warm summer months. Normally benign errors in judgment such as forgetting to turn on an air conditioner or staying too long in the afternoon sun could have catastrophic consequences when the temperatures are high.
How much water should people drink to protect against dehydration in the summer? There is no universally accepted answer to that question. However, the Mayo Clinic recommends roughly one gallon of water daily during normal conditions for an average male, slightly less for females.
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