Heat-related illness occurs when an individual’s body is unable to cool itself. The body cools itself by sweating, but during extreme heat and humidity, sweating may not be enough.
Older adults and anyone who participates in outdoor activities is most at risk. Adults age 65 and older are more likely to have medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, poor circulation and heart disease that can upset the body’s normal response to high temperatures. Some medications also affect the body’s ability to cool itself.
These signs may be an indication of dehydration or heatstroke:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue or weakness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fast heart rate
- Impaired judgment
- Muscle cramps
- High body temperature – a temperature over 104.5° F indicates heatstroke
Helpful tips to remember when temperatures rise:
- Drink plenty of water and other hydrating fluids, but stay away from soda, caffeine and alcoholic beverages, which can dehydrate the body.
- Avoid outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day, which is usually between noon and 4 p.m.
- If you don’t have an air conditioner, or yours is broken, use fans to cool yourself. But remember, fans cool people, not rooms, so turn it off when you leave a room.
- Check with older neighbors to make sure they are taking precautions and not suffering from heat-related illnesses.
- Wear sunscreen when outdoors! Don’t forget to protect your body’s largest organ – your skin.
Be aware of your body and what it is telling you. If you exhibit any of the signs listed above, tell someone what you are experiencing and do what you can to cool your body - cease activities that cause exertion, drink hydrating fluids, and take a cool shower. If the symptoms persist, call 9-1-1 for assistance from EMS.