Keeping Seniors Cool
Senior citizens account for more than half of those deaths each year. But it wasn't hot enough to open the eight air conditioned centers throughout the community used to keep people cool.
Columbia officials say keeping seniors cool is one of the city's top priorities. The Columbia senior center serves more than 75 people a day.
"The heat index is supposed to be really high today so we'll probably see more throughout the day," said Don Avery of the Columbia Senior Center.
According to the Department of Health and Senior Services, seniors are one of two groups most affected by heat and prone to heat-related illnesses.
"We stay inside a lot, but we're more concerned about the humidity than we are the actual heat," said Jerry Sooter, with the Columbia Senior Center. "That keeps your body from releasing the heat from your body-- it actually insulates it. So humidity - high Missouri humidity - really helps put us at risk as well," said Brian Quinn with the department.
Humidity and heat can take a toll on your body, especially as you age.
"They really need to stay hydrated, they need to drink lots of water throughout the day, and they need to make sure they stay cool," Quinn said.
Officials say beating the heat is all about skin and sweat. Using a fan helps lift the moisture off your skin as you sweat and cools you down. The only problem is, seniors don't sweat as much, so using a fan can do more harm than help. One way to fix this is to turn off the fan and turn on the air conditioning.
The department says to also stay away from caffeine and alcohol.
"The main thing is they need to get someplace where it is cool and they can feel comfortable and relaxed," Avery said.
Cooling centers are one way to do that, but they don't open unless the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory.
The Department of Health suggests checking up on elderly neighbors and making sure they drink plenty of water.
For links to cooling centers in Columbia, click on the links on this page.