By Marlo Sollitto, AgingCare.com contributing editor
Heat is a potentially deadly problem—nearly 400 Americans die from heat waves each year. Most of them are elderly people who often don’t realize when they are overheating and in danger. However, the elderly and ill aren’t the only people that heat kills. It also kills healthy young people, usually because they do not recognize the dangers of exercising in hot weather, especially hot, humid weather.
When heat and humidity combine to slow evaporation of sweat from the body, outdoor exercise becomes dangerous even for those in good shape. Overheating can cause serious, even life-threatening conditions such as heat stroke.
Next: some tips for keeping cool this summer and avoiding heat stroke…
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and to slow down and cool off when feeling fatigued or having a headache, a high pulse rate or shallow breathing.
- Stay away from iced coffee and other highly caffeinated drinks, or sodas loaded with sodium, which is bad for heart health. Also avoid alcohol, which is dehydrating, when temperatures soar.
- Enjoy the summer in shady areas and rest whenever necessary.
- Limit exercise to moderate activity and be sure to not exert yourself. Exercise during periods of the day that are cooler such as early morning or late evening.
- When you are indoors at home, use air conditioning. When outdoors at home, sit in the shade or under a ceiling fan. To keep the house cooler without running the air conditioning, close curtains or blinds on the east side of the home during the morning, and the west side in the afternoon.
- Keep frozen treats available that have a high water and low sugar content, like sugar-free Popsicles (you can make your own using juice). Or serve fruit with a high water content, like watermelon.
- Wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing. Hats are useful, but make sure that they are loosely woven or ventilated so they don’t trap heat and broad-brimmed so they shade the entire face.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke: dry hot flushed skin, weakness, confusion, intense muscle aches, nausea, dilated pupils, loss of consciousness, and body temperatures of 105 degrees or higher. Call 911 immediately if you or someone you know has these symptoms.
Summer is a beautiful time of year but remember that extreme heat can be very dangerous. It’s necessary to take special care to avoid serious illnesses.