With the first days of summer approaching and temperatures rising, it’s a good time to take stock of ways to stay comfortable and safe on days when the heat goes from soothing to scorching.
June is National Safety Month, marking a chance to learn about the risk factors and warning signs of heat-related illness. It’s also a good time to review strategies for avoiding common summer illnesses and injuries.
Examples of common heat illness include:
- Heat syncope is a sudden dizziness after being active in hot weather. Hydration and rest often solve the dizziness.
- Heat cramps are a painful tightening of muscles. Staying in the shade and drinking plenty of fluids commonly ease the pain.
- Heat edema is swelling in the ankles and/or feet. If elevation and rest don’t make the swelling go down, call your home health nurse.
- Heat exhaustion is a serious warning that your body can’t stay cool and can progress to heat stroke. Symptoms can include dizziness, thirst, weakness, and nausea. If hydration and finding a cool place to rest don’t ease the symptoms quickly, call your healthcare-at-home nurse right away.
Older individuals living in homes without air conditioning are most at risk for heat stroke, which requires immediate medical attention. Health conditions such as heart, lung, or kidney disease can increase a person’s risk of death from heat stroke.
Aside from hot weather, other causes of heat illness include dehydration, alcohol use, and wearing heavy clothes that don’t allow sweat to evaporate.
According to the National Institute on Aging, signs of heat stroke include:
- Fainting (which is often the first sign) or losing consciousness
- Body temperature over 104 degrees
- A rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse
- Not sweating despite the heat
- Dry, flushed skin
- Changes in behavior, such as confusion, agitation, staggering, or acting strangely
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 8,081 heat-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010, with nearly all of those deaths coming between May and September (94%), and most coming in the months of July (39%) and August (26%).
Simply paying attention to the weather report is a good place to start when it comes to staying safe in high temperatures.
You can do several things to avoid heat-related illness, according to the Mayo Clinic. They include:
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
- Use protection such as sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 when outdoors (be sure to reapply every two hours).
- Stay well-hydrated.
- Take precautions with medication, as some can affect the body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat.
- Take it easy during the hottest part of the day.
For people who live in a home without air conditioning, it makes sense to have a plan to stay cool during the hottest days. Libraries, shopping malls, movie theaters, and senior centers can be good options for staying safe during the hottest part of the day.
Contact your local Intrepid USA Care Team for help in planning to stay safe in the heat this summer.
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