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Summer Heat Help

(Australians and other TGB readers below the equator can skip today's post or save it for next November.)

It's starting to warm up here in Oregon. Nothing unbearable yet but it reminds me that it's time for the annual TGB summer heat warning post.

In fact, there is an acronym we need to learn: EHE means Extreme Heat Event which, I'm pretty sure, needs no explanation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are about 650 heat-related deaths each summer in the U.S. and the number has been rising.

In 2012, one half of those deaths affected people 65 and older and that's not unusual. Among the groups most vulnerable to heat-related illness or death are the very old, children four and younger, and those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

A problem for elders is that as we get older, our body temperature regulators do not work as well as when we were young. Sometimes we don't feel thirst when our bodies need liquid so drink a lot of water during hot months.

Here are some other suggestions for getting you, your family, friends and neighbors through the hot season:

Wear light-colored, loose clothing.

Heat waves are not the time to skimp on the electric bill. Turn up the air conditioning when you need it.

If you do not have air conditioning, now is the time – before an EHE – to find out the locations of your city's cooling centers. Hundreds of cities use school gyms and other large gathering places to help people cool down during the worst of the day's heat.

You could also go the movies, the mall or visit a friend who has air conditioning during the afternoon.

If you have air conditioning, invite a friend who does not have it to visit you during the hottest hours of the day.

If you must be out and about during a heat wave, do your errands in the early morning. Schedule appointments before the worst heat of the day.

Eat light meals that do not need cooking. High-water-content foods like cantaloupe, watermelon, apples and other fruits are good.

Keep window shades lowered and curtains drawn during the strongest heat of the day.

Some medications for diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions can inhibit the body's ability to cool itself. If your area is experiencing a prolonged heat wave, perhaps ask your physician if you can forgo or reduce the amount of those medications for the duration.

There are two heat-related conditions that are deadly serious and you should know the symptoms:

HEAT EXHAUSTION occurs when the body gets too hot. Symptoms are thirst, weakness, dizziness, profuse sweating, cold and clammy skin, normal or slightly elevated body temperature.

Move yourself or someone experiencing these symptoms to a cool place, drink cool liquids, take a cool bath or shower and rest.

HEAT STROKE is a medical emergency. It can cause brain damage so get thee or the affected person to a hospital. It occurs when body temperature reaches 104 or 105 in a matter of minutes.

Other symptoms include confusion; faintness; strong, rapid pulse; lack of sweating and bizarre behavior. Don't fool around with this.

This is a short video about the seriousness of excessive summer heat from Dr. Robin Ikeda, Acting Director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health:

The CDC has an entire section of its website devoted to staying healthy and cool during extreme heat.

Enjoy the warm months, but stay cool and safe this summer too.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: The Third Time's a Charm


The heat wave is already here in the desert. It has been over 100 for several weeks and I do make sure I am hydrated. I only leave the house long enough to get in someone's air conditioned car or to walk to the mail boxes once a day.

If the air conditioning went out I am sure most of us would not survive. Now that's a scary thought.

Thanks for this.

When I moved to Phoenix several decades ago, I was so limp I could not enjoy anything! Then a "native" told me, "Drink fluids, eat salt, be happy."
I did that, always keeping a beverage-being-consumed at my side. I ate potato chips and other salty snacks because I did not want to take salt tablets like the construction workers, I learned to absolutely love the heat!

I was having trouble drinking enough fluids when I moved from Seattle to Phoenix (notice how all the AZ folks are commenting to this post?) and picked up a tip from a friend. I bought a stainless steel insulated water bottle from a sports store intended for bicyclists and runners which keeps my ice/water very cold for up to 24 hours. Then I add a teaspoon or so of sugarless raspberry syrup coffee flavoring to my ice water. I now stay hydrated and feel much better.

Although we don't get nearly so hot in Oregon, we usually have a few 3-4 day hot streak. Our condo complex cools off the clubhouse for those who do not have air conditioning.

Thanks for the reminder!

If you don't have access to air conditioning on a very hot day, you can cool down in the tub. Fill your tub with several inches of lukewarm water, bring your favorite drink in a tall plastic glass, and a paperback novel. Relax and pretend you are at the beach.

Good reminder. I'm just not as heat proof at 72 as I was a few years ago.

In the kitchen I keep a 10 cup Britta pitcher filled and I empty it each day. It's the only way I can keep track of my fluid intake. And I take a full insulated water bottle with me in the car and two gallons on trips. It's amazing how easy it is to forget to drink something.

I don't think it's ever going to get hot enough this summer where I live to worry about heat strokes and exhaustion! I'm sitting here in a sweat shirt and the furnace on. But it's good for us elders to be reminded of these things you posted today. Thanks and if you get too hot in Oregon stop on by.

I have had heat exhaustion and it is not fun. I was very sick and it took a day to get back to "normal." It's been in the 100s this week in Fresno and I have tried to minimize my work and do everything in the very early morning hours. Today we were home by 11:15 which helps.

For us elder runners, run early morning or late evening and drink water before and an extra glass after the run.

Desert People around Death Valley throw regular open house parties at Nevada's air'conditioned Casinos and cheap motel rooms. Marathon Heat Spells/Parties go down in local histories.

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