Are summer temperatures a risk to seniors?
For many, summer is the favorite season of the year. It’s filled with pool parties and Popsicles, weeks at camp and lazy days at the beach. The warm summer sun rises earlier and earlier, staying out longer each evening to make sure to give each opportunity to squeeze one more activity into the day.
So yes, for many, summer is a sweaty but fun quarter of the year where stress levels seem to plummet as the temperature rises. But for the seniors in our communities, are the increasing summer temperatures affecting them negatively? There are a few major ways that summer might be hurting your health — keep reading for more on how.
Heat stroke is a danger to many in more extreme summer temperatures. It can be even more devastating to those with chronic conditions. According to researchers, chronic lung disease fatality risk increased by 3.7%, diabetes fatality risk increased by 4%, heart attack sufferers fatality risk increased by 3.8%, and heart failure sufferers fatality risk increased by 2.8%. This is with just a few temperatures of change, not an extreme climate.
Look out for symptoms of hyperthermia by being aware of them. Heat syncope is when you get dizzy from being active in hot weather, heat cramps in the muscles are caused by overexertion, heat edema can be identified by swollen legs, ankles, or feet, and heat exhaustion may include feeling sweaty and clammy, thirsty, dizzy, weak, uncoordinated, and nauseated. Make sure to elevate legs and feet if they start to swill, rest when you need to, and stay hydrated.
Heat stroke is also classified under hyperthermia, and is a little more extreme. If you think what you or a loved one is feeling is heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms include fainting and unconsciousness, a sudden change in behavior like being confused or angry, a body temperature over 104 degrees fahrenheit, no sweating even if it’s really hot, and dry, flushed skin with a fast or weak pulse.
Check the weather before your daily adventure. As mentioned above, heat stroke and increased symptoms from other chronic illnesses are not just cued by sudden extreme heat. It can be caused by temperature changes of around two degrees. That is all that is needed to increase the death rate for heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. It can happen in the house too, so if your home or apartment is not sufficiently cooled during the summer try and be somewhere that has a cooling system for at least part of the day.
So stay safe out there. Don’t go on long excursions by yourself without a way to contact help or others, wear light and breathable clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, and make sure to hydrate by drinking plenty of water. Take breaks when necessary! Summertime sadness is over. It’s time to seize the day and have a new adventure — before it gets cold again.