Is It Too Hot For Your Health?

Almost every summer, there’s a deadly heat wave in some parts of the country. Excessive heat isn’t safe for anyone, especially for older people or those with health problems. But exactly what dangers are you facing and how can you protect yourself? Here’s some advice from the National Institute on Aging:

Your body is always working to keep a balance between how much heat it makes and how much it loses. Too much heat causes sweating. And being hot for too long can cause several illnesses, all grouped under the name hyperthermia:

HEAT SYNCOPE is a sudden dizziness that may happen when you are active during hot weather. If you take a kind of heart medication called a beta blocker or are unused to hot weather, you are even more likely to feel faint. Drinking water, putting your legs up, and resting in a cool place should make the dizzy feeling go away.

HEAT CRAMPS are the painful tightening of muscles in your stomach, arms, or legs. Cramps can result from hard work or exercise. These cramps are a sign that you are too hot. Find a way to cool your body down. Rest in the shade or in a cool building. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, but not those with alcohol or caffeine (coffee, tea, and some sodas). Caffeine can cause you to be dehydrated.

HEAT EDEMA is a swelling in your ankles and feet when you get hot. Putting your legs up should help. If that doesn’t work fairly quickly, check with your doctor.

HEAT EXHAUSTION is a warning that your body can no longer keep itself cool. You might feel thirsty, dizzy, weak, uncoordinated, and nauseated. You may sweat a lot. Even though your body temperature stays normal, your skin feels cold and clammy. Some people with heat exhaustion have a rapid pulse. Rest in a cool place and get plenty of fluids. If you don’t feel better soon, get medical care. Be careful—heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

HEAT STROKE can be life threatening. You need to get medical help right away. Older people living in homes or apartments without air conditioning or fans are at most risk. So are people who become dehydrated or those with chronic diseases or alcoholism.

Signs Of Heat Stroke—A Medical Emergency

Fainting, possibly the first sign

Body temperature over 104°F

A change in behavior—confusion, being grouchy, acting strangely, or staggering

Dry flushed skin and a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse

Not sweating even if it is hot, acting agitated, or being in a coma

Who Is At Risk?