One of the terrific things about living in the Willamette Valley of northwest Oregon is the summer weather. Generally, the temperature doesn't reach its high point until about 4PM and within an hour or two of that, the sun goes behind the Coast mountain range and you can feel the cooling affect almost immediately.
By the next morning, the temperature is usually in the 50s, maybe low 60s even when, as with the past few days, there has been an early heat wave when it's been in the high 80s and low 90s.
With careful use of closed curtains and open windows at appropriate times of day, I keep the house so comfortable that in five years here I still haven't tested the air conditioner; I have no idea if it works.
Not everyone is as lucky with summer weather as I am and in other climates, air conditioning is a necessary life saver. Thousands of poor people in India died in the past few weeks during a prolonged hot spell in that country.
So today is our annual reminder of how to keep cool (for us northern hemisphere people) when it's too hot out there. There are enough diseases and conditions of age to worry about - let's not make hot weather one of them.
Too hot for old people doesn't need to be as hot as it does for younger people because our body's heating and cooling systems wear down with the passing years.
Our sweat glands are less efficient and so is our blood circulation. Certain diseases and medications, salt-restricted diets for high blood pressure, being overweight or underweight, among other issues, can affect body temperature regulation.
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 immediately. It occurs when body temperature reaches 103 or 104 in a matter of minutes.
Other symptoms include confusion; faintness; strong, rapid pulse; lack of sweating, flushed skin, bizarre behavior and coma. Don't fool around with this. Call 911 immediately.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website has an excellent section on extreme heat including a link from that page to one especially for old people.
Here is a list of suggestions from our 2014 story on keeping cool in summer heat. They are no less useful for being a year old.
• 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 a heat emergency – 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.
Have I left out anything? Do you have more suggestions?