Were experiencing a heat wave, and its not just in Cleveland. Nearly every person Ive spoken to from California to Massachusetts has told me how unusually hot these past few weeks have been. Seniors, the elderly and small children are susceptible to overheating and this can cause some serious health problems.
Those with a history of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and respiratory disease need to take special care. However, overheating can happen to any one if youre not careful.
Pay attention to the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Some symptoms are: heavy sweating, pale or clammy skin, fainting, and vomiting. A heat stroke is a true medical emergency. A delay in treatment can be fatal. If you know someone who is elderly or fragile, check on him or her to make sure they stay cool. The elderly are much more likely to suffer from heat related illnesses. If a person becomes dehydrated and cannot sweat enough to cool their body, their internal temperature may rise to dangerously high levels, causing heat stroke
Are your feet and hands swelling? Heat edema is swelling of the hands and feet when blood vessels expand and allow fluid to pool under the skin. Is your skin itchy? Prickly heat is an irritating rash that is caused by a blockage of the sweat pores, usually under clothing.
Your sweat is your body's main system for getting rid of extra heat. As long as blood is flowing properly to your skin, extra heat from the core of your body is "pumped" to the skin and removed by sweat evaporation. If you do not sweat enough, you cannot get rid of extra heat well. If you have poor circulation it is also difficult to stay cool because your body can't get rid of heat as well if blood is not flowing to the skin.
Dehydration will make it harder for you to cool of in two ways: if you are dehydrated you won't sweat as much, and your body will try to keep blood away from the skin to keep your blood pressure at the right level in the core of your body. But, since you lose water when you sweat, you must make up that water to keep from becoming dehydrated. If the air is humid, it's harder for your sweat to evaporate -- this means that your body cannot get rid of extra heat as well when it's muggy as it can when it's relatively dry.
Other precautions to consider include:
Increase your intake of water avoid alcoholic, carbonated, sugar and caffeine drinks
This may sound crazy avoid ice cold drinks. When your tummy receives fluid that is ice cold, your internal body temperature must rise in order to compensate leading to further internal heat
An old farmers trick (you learn this quickly if youve ever helped to bail hay in August) Wet a bandana (or scarf) and put it in the freezer. Wrap this around your neck, once the fabric is thawed, wrap the cool scarf around your forehead. My grandma use to have a large wrap that she would position around her bust line. (Bailing hay is a family event J)
Wear clothing that is light in color and loose fitting (let your skin breathe)
Avoid outdoor activity during the afternoon hours
Eat less protein and more fruits and vegetables (proteins increase your metabolism which heats you up inside) this leads to further water loss. The fruits and vegetables will add minerals and salts that you are loosing in your sweat
Treat yourself to a cool bath
If you dont have air-conditioning, stay in the lowest section of your home if possible. Keep in mind, heat rises. If you have window fans, set the fan to pull hot air out of your home, rather than pulling more hot air in from the outdoors.
Seniors living without air conditioning may want to consider spending the hottest part of the day where relief from the heat can be found. Senior centers, the mall, libraries, churches and museums are all (almost always) air-conditioned.