How to avoid heat-related illness

People aged 65 years or older are more prone to heat-related health problems. Other factors that might increase your risk on hot days include high humidity, obesity, fever, dehydration, prescription drug use, heart disease, hypertension, poor circulation, sunburn, and alcohol use.

Symptoms of heat stroke include fever (over 103 degrees F), hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; fainting. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating; cold, pale, damp skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headache; and fainting.

10 tips for staying cool:

  1. Wear appropriate clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brim hat outdoors.
  2. Stay cool indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
  3. Cooler temperatures are a must: Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.
  4. Schedule outdoor activities carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.
  5. Pace yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.
  6. Wear sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions. Look for sunscreens that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels – these products work best.
  7. Avoid hot and heavy meals: They add heat to your body!
  8. Drink plenty of fluids: Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  9. Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinksthese actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  10. Replace Salt and Minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.