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Heat wave can be especially dangerous to elderly

Published July 17. 2013 05:03PM

Many people don't realize how harmful the summer heat can be if you are not properly prepared.

Senior citizens are especially prone to heat-related health problems.

Cheri Santore, administrator for the Carbon County Area Agency on Aging, provided the following tips to help make sure you and your loved ones are safe, cool and happy as the heat wave continues this week in the Northeast.

• Spend as much time in cool surroundings. Use an air conditioner if possible; go to an air-conditioned mall, store or senior center; catch a movie at the movie theater; or go visit friends who have air conditioning.

Air conditioning is a lifesaver during the hot summer months. It not only provides much-needed relief from the heat, it can also save a person's life by not allowing them to get overheated.

Also, if air conditioning is not an option, make sure to use fans to draw cooler air inside the home at night and help with circulation.

• Keep your drapes closed during the day to keep the air in the house cooler.

• Take a cool bath or shower to help make you feel refreshed and keep your body temperature down.

• Wear lightweight, breathable, light-colored clothing. Many seniors bundle up, even in the summer, so make sure your loved ones are wearing lighter clothes so they don't overheat.

If you are going outside, make sure to wear a hat to protect your head and neck from the summer sun.

• Water, water, water. Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day to make up for sweating. It is easy to become dehydrated in the summer and dehydration can become severe quickly, leaving you more susceptible to heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

If you are thirsty, you are probably becoming dehydrated and need to drink water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they will magnify the heat effects on a person.

• Eat smaller meals more often. This will help regulate your body temperature.

• Avoid outdoor house work during hot summer days.

Santore stresses that the outside house work can be put off until cooler days. It will still be there after the heat wave is over!

• Check on elderly neighbors often. They may need your help to beat the heat.

Santore also noted that even though seniors may think they are prepared for the hot weather, some, especially if they have an underlying medical condition, can experience heat-related health problems.

She added that warning signs for heat-related problems, such as heat stress, heat cramps, heatstroke, or heat exhaustion can include: lack of energy; loss of appetite; dizziness; rapid heartbeat; diarrhea; nausea; throbbing headache; dry skin; chest pain; great weakness; mental changes; breathing problems; vomiting; or cramps.

If you notice these signs in yourself or a loved one, call a doctor immediately.

If you notice a person who has dry skin, a rapid but strong pulse, and a body temperature of 106 or higher, don't wait to call a doctor; call 911 and then move the person to the bathroom or a cooler room and immerse them in cool water or wrap them in wet sheets until EMTs arrive. Make sure they remain lying down, no matter what they say, because they are in heatstroke, which is life threatening if not treated immediately.

For more information on what you can do to help yourself or your loved ones stay safe as the temperatures continue to soar, Santore said to contact any of the Carbon County senior centers or her office at 1-800-441-1315.

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