(RxWiki News) As the season changes and the temperature rises, the risk for heat-related health issues grows.
This risk is particularly high for the elderly and those with certain medical issues.
The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, has weighed in on some facts and guidance to keep in mind this summer. Here's what you need to know to stay safe in hot weather.
Hyperthermia and Heat Stroke
Hyperthermia is caused by the body's inability to regulate itself in hot environments.
Forms of hyperthermia include heat fatigue, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, sudden dizziness after being in the heat for a long period of time and heat stroke.
Heat stroke is considered a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. During a heat stroke, your body is unable to control its temperature.
Signs of a heat stroke include a spike in temperature (typically above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), fast pulse, change in mental function, flushed and dry skin, being unable to sweat and feeling faint. Heat stroke can even lead to a coma.
Anyone experiencing a possible heat stroke should seek immediate emergency medical attention. This is especially true for the elderly.
What Increases My Risk?
Your risk for heat-related health problems is increased by high temperatures and certain lifestyle factors, as well as your individual health status.
Lifestyle factors may include living in conditions in which there is no air conditioning, not drinking enough fluids and not understanding how to respond to hot weather conditions.
The following factors may increase your risk for hyperthermia:
- Reduced sweating caused by certain medications
- Inefficient sweat production
- Drinking alcohol
- Being very underweight or overweight
- Heart, lung or kidney diseases
- High blood pressure
- Taking several medications
- Age-related changes to the skin, such as poor blood circulation
What Can I Do to Stay Safe?
When it is hot and humid outside, try to stay indoors in cooler spaces. This is especially important for older people and those who have multiple chronic medical conditions. Experts also recommend staying indoors during air pollution alerts.
If you do not have air conditioning, senior centers, movie theaters, libraries and shopping malls are great places to spend the day in cooler air. Another great option is a cooling center set up by a local health agency.
What if I See Someone with a Heat-Related Illness?
If you see someone who is experiencing a heat-related illness, take the following steps:
- Call 911.
- Remove the person from the heat.
- Move the person to a shady spot, an air-conditioned location or another cool place.
- Have the person lie down.
- Apply a cold, wet cloth to the armpits, neck, wrists and groin. Applying cold cloths to these areas can help cool the blood because the blood passes close to the surface of the skin at these locations.
- Offer the person fluids (ONLY if the person can swallow safely). Generally safe liquids include water and vegetable and fruit juices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Encourage the person to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water (if you feel it is safe to do so).