Summer weather safety week places emphasis on older adults

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COLUMBIA - Monday is the beginning of the National Weather Service's summer weather safety week. The National Weather Service is placing an emphasis during the week on the dangers involving extreme heat and older adults.

"Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the U.S., resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses," the National Weather Service website said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said older adults (people aged 65 or older) are more prone to heat stress than younger people because older people do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature, are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes the bodies' normal responses to heat, and are more likely to take prescription medicine that impairs the body's ability to regulate its temperature. 

"The elderly are often the most vulnerable to severe heat," said Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead, Inc, "Their bodies do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature, they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat and they are often on a prescription medicine that impairs the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibits perspiration."

The CDC outline's three heat-related illnesses and recommended treatment for them.

Heat cramps may be the first sign of heat-related illness. The symptoms are painful muscle cramps usually in the legs or abdomen and heavy sweating. The CDC recommends applying firm pressure on the muscle cramps to relieve the spasm, and to drink water.

Heat exhaustion is the second. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, weakness, paler skin, fast or weak pulse, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting. The CDC recommends moving the person to a cooler environment, laying the person down, applying cool cloths. The CDC said to immediately seek medical attention if the person vomits.

The CDC said heat stroke is the most serious. Symptoms of heat stroke are throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing, altered mental state, body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, rapid or strong pulse, and fainting. The CDC said to call 911 immediately because heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. It also recommends moving the person to a cooler environment to reduce body temperature.

The CDC said people can protect themselves by following these steps:

  1. Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages. (If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, avoid extremely cold liquids because they can cause cramps.)
  2. Rest.
  3. Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
  4. If possible, seek an air-conditioned environment. (If you don't have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping mall or public library to cool off.)
  5. Wear lightweight clothing.
  6. If possible, remain indoors in the heat of the day.
  7. Do not engage in strenuous activities.
The CDC also said people can help protect older loved ones by visiting their loved ones at least twice a day and checking for sign of heat exhaustion. They can also encourage loved ones to drink more fluids throughout the day.