PLYMOUTH — Summer weather has arrived, with periods of heat and humidity. The team of health care professionals at Pemi Baker Community Health warns that it is important to recognize the symptoms of heat-related health problems.
Studies from the National Institute of Health find that an average of 650 people per year in the U.S. die from heat-related illness. People over the age of 65 show higher rates of heat illness than younger adults, with the highest rates in those 85 and over. Why is this so?
• Age-related changes to the skin such as reduced circulation or less efficient sweating.
• Increased use of medications that may impair the body’s ability to manage high heat, such as fluid pills, sedatives, and some blood pressure drugs.
• Heart, lung, or kidney diseases.
• High blood pressure.
The Centers for Disease Control break heat-related illnesses into a variety of categories, from heat-related cramping, to heat exhaustion, to heat stroke. There are a number of signs and symptoms to be watchful for in warm weather, such as:
• Temperature of 103 degrees F or above.
• Cold, clammy skin.
• Headache, dizziness or nausea/vomiting.
• Muscle cramping, sudden onset of fatigue or listlessness.
• Passing out.
Preventing these problems requires a few simple precautions. Good advice for avoiding heat illness includes:
• Reserving outdoor physical activity for cooler periods of the day, closer to dusk or dawn in hot weather.
• Take frequent breaks, preferably in air-conditioned or cooler places.
• Drink adequate water, sipping frequently to avoid dehydration.
• Wear light clothing that breathes efficiently to help remain cool.
• Avoid alcohol, as this contributes to overall dehydration.
• Do not leave elderly loved ones inside a vehicle without the A/C running on hot days. Research shows that, when air temperature outside is 90 degrees, temperature in a closed car can reach 109 degrees in only 10 minutes.
If an individual or a loved one begins exhibiting symptoms of heat illness, consider these steps:
• If they have high body temperature, are nauseous or appear to be on the verge of passing out, call 911. Move them to a cool place if possible.
• Loosen clothing, place moist cool towels on the body.
• If symptoms such as cramping or extreme fatigue worsen or persist for over an hour, or if person has a heart condition, seek medical help right away.