Journal: Some Jumbled Thoughts in Late Life

Elders and Summer Heat with COVID Updates

EDITORIAL NOTE: I meant to write the annual TGB summer heat alert last month but time got away from me. And, it's been a busy week getting to know all the new hospice people, so instead of starting from scratch (this stuff doesn't change much anyway) I'm re-posting last year's story with a couple of virus-related updates.

Please re-read this even if you think you know all of it. I found it good to get reminders on ideas for keeping cool and safety - from staring into the open refrigerator for a couple of minutes will cool you down. and when you need a doctor.

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With so many gigantic problems in our world and aside from the terrifying news that the Siberian arctic reached the highest temperature ever recorded – 100F degrees – last month, reports of extreme summer heat are hard to find .

That doesn't mean it's not happening and that there won't be a lot more before summer is over.

So at about this time each year, I post a reminder about how to keep ourselves cool throughout summer and how to know when overheating is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Although everyone suffers, extreme heat is more often deadly for elders than younger people.

For example, in France in August of 2003, during an extreme heat wave, 14,802 heat-related deaths occurred, most of them elders. In the U.S., it is estimated that about 370 deaths a year are attributable to heat, half of them elders. Do not take extreme heat lightly.

Here are the best suggestions for staying cool and safe during extreme hot weather.

Even if, like me, you dislike air conditioning, when temperatures hit 80F, it's time to pump up the volume of that appliance. Fans, say experts, don't protect against heat-related illness when temperatures are above 90 degrees; they just push hot air around.

Last year, I recommending going to a mall or a movie or a library during the hottest part of the day. Uh, well, that's up to you and also depends on your state's lockdown rules. I'm not recommending these things.

UPDATE for 2020: Experts don't know if air conditioning can spread the coronavirus. Here's what the Cleveland Clinic says:

”I don’t think we can say for sure yet, but we don’t think this is a primary way the virus is spread...

“While there is no clear evidence at this time, fans and air conditioners do move air around in a room, so they theoretically pose a risk of spreading viral particles and droplets. More research is needed to understand the impact, if any, of air conditioning on the spread of COVID-19 in public places.”

Read more at the Cleveland Clinic or for more, google “is air conditioning safe during covid”.

Wear light-colored, loose clothing.

Drink plenty of liquids and make reminders to yourself to do so. Elders sometimes don't feel thirst (another thing that stops working well with age). One way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine. Light-colored is good; dark indicates dehydration.

Do not drink caffeinated and alcoholic beverages – or at least keep them to a minimum; they are dehydrating. (Some people dispute this; experts do not.)

Plan trips out of the house and exercise for the early morning hours.

Eat light meals that don't need to be cooked. High-water-content foods are good: cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, for example.

Keep a spray bottle of cold water to help you cool down. Or use a damp, cool towel around your neck.

Close doors to rooms you are not using to keep cool air from dissipating.

Some medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions can inhibit the body's ability to cool itself, so it might be a good idea to ask your physician if you can cut back during hot weather.

Pull down the shades or close curtains during the hottest times of day.

In that regard, I have been quite successful in keeping my home cool during hot weather without the air conditioner. In the morning, when the temperature here in Portland, Oregon is typically in the mid- or high 50s, I open all the windows.

I keep my eye on the thermometer and when the outside temperature reaches 65F or 70F – usually by late morning - I close the windows and the shades. After several years of practice with this method, I only rarely need the air conditioner even on 90-plus degree days. It saves a lot of money, too, not using the air conditioner.

But, with the virus admonitions above, do turn on the air conditioner when it's really hot.

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 this 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 heat stroke.

There now. That's pretty much the best of health experts' recommendations about protecting ourselves and others during extreme hot weather. If you have additional suggestions, please add them in the comments.

Oh, I almost forgot: Enjoy your Fourth of July.


What great advice, only I live in Florida, NE Florida, to be sure, and A/C needs to be on most of the time, other info sooooo good, eating the watermelon, and drinking lots of fluids, stay well all of you, all over the country, Happy July 4th 2020, and Shabbat Shalom, too. m

Ronni, Good advice to everyone!

Have an enjoyable 4th of July.

All great info on keeping cool, thanks! Those of us with neuro issues often cannot sweat, so keeping cool is a challenge in all sorts of situations. (Even winter in overheated buildings). I have as part of my keep cool regimen a stack of phase change cooling scarves (I get no benefit from the referrals :-) )

Glad you mentioned the spray mister--we have multiple bottles we keep on hand, since they sometimes break, and we spend time on the trail on our adaptive tandem bicycle. Keeping cool is a safety issue. Keep safe, bless you for all you continue to do.

I live in NV. In this desert it is impossible to live without AC for much of the year. It is particularly dangerous for the old and very young. People die in the desert regularly. We stay over a 100 a lot and even temps in the 90's are way too much for me. Don't move to Las Vegas if you don't like AC...

Good advice, the sprayer bottle, yes! I do my outdoor work first thing after breakfast, then am so amazingly blessed to have a studio that has been air conditioned now for many years. Just the other day I read up on what to drink to stay hydrated, and all the sites recommended water as number one. See how even we are influenced by advertising? Over the years, I'd come to think I needed something IN the water, or worse yet, to BUY something, oh you know, that pricey coconut water, or something. (It does taste awfully good.)
The rule for desert hiking is...........don't save your water, drink it NOW. People have been found dead with water in the bottle next to them.
A good 4th to you, Ronnie, and your readers too.

I like the cooling bandanna- search Erodyne Chill Its Cooling Bandanna, or the Koola neck wrap from Tilley, You soak it in cold water for 45 min., blot it a bit, and wear it around you neck. It lowers your core temperature and is reusable. (I've had mine since a trip to India a decade ago.) It works better than the towel (gel inside the wrap preserves the cold) and you can wear it outside.

A happy and safe 4th to all you Americans! 🇺🇸🇨🇦

AC at home should not pose any risk if there's no virus within the system; public spaces are a bit trickier, though!

I'd also note that some "natural rehydrating" coconut water drinks have levels of potassium per serving that can exceed your maximum recommended potassium intake if you drink them exclusively (there's an AHA case study where a guy almost killed himself via potassium poisoning by drinking 8 of them while exercising one day), so don't drink exclusively coconut water unless you've got a low-potassium brand (or are instructed by your doctor, etc.). I don't know if these drinks are continuing to become more popular or whether they're on the wane - and they're also pricey, and thus likely outside the normal senior budget - but if you have a case of them and *can* drink them all day long, don't do so, even though they're reputedly tasty (enough potassium = very good for hydration; too much potassium = very bad for everything!). A couple of them per day: sure! But not too many.

We had our AC serviced a few weeks ago and he put in a new filter which is good for any change of seasons but especially this time in history. Our neighbors across the street have been in quarantine for weeks due to a case COVID in their household. I noticed they brought in a new AC filter yesterday, which I thought was a good idea.

You too.

We can usually employ several of those tips on keeping cool to get by without AC for most of the summer here in northern IL, just using fans, but already in June we were up in the low 90's a few days, and now we're in a run of them for what looks to be at least a week to 10 days. A while back someone told me that the Farmer's Almanac said this would be a warmer than average summer her, and they're right. I don't even want to know what the dog days will be like. Better just to wait and deal with them then. I am planning to get a small kiddie pool to soak my feet in outdoors during that time.

Stay safe everyone and have as pleasant a 4th of July as possible!

Important info! Thx for reposting! We are having a heat wave where I live. It's been in the 90s every day with the lows in the 70s. It started last week and is continuing into next week. I cancelled my plans to drive out of town, an annual 4th of July trip, due to the heat. I am not tolerating the heat as well as I have in years past. I did 2 hour long walks last week and felt tired and worn out the rest of the day. My body has changed. Another loss due to age. It makes me sad.

Unfortunately, we've had fireworks starting a couple of weeks ago which makes it unsafe to go for a walk at night.

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