Reduce the risk of heat-related problems this summer
For the last few weeks, areas of the Mainland have been experiencing record-breaking summer temperatures.
While we haven’t seen (and hopefully won’t ever see) triple-digit temperatures, midsummer is a time to consider and plan ahead for keeping cool in the warm weather.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the following heat-related conditions can occur when the temperatures outside rise:
Heat syncope. This is sudden dizziness that can result from physical activity in warm weather, being unaccustomed to warm temperatures or medication side effects. If dizziness develops rapidly, find a cool spot, rest, elevate your feet and drink plenty of water. Take your time before resuming any activity and call your doctor if you or your family is concerned for any reason.
Heat cramps. Exercise or other physical activity in warm weather can also result in cramps in your stomach, leg or arm muscles. Respond in a similar way to heat syncope — rest in a cool spot, put your feet up and drink plenty of water.
Heat edema. If your feet or ankles begin to swell in the heat, elevate your feet and rest in a cool location. If relief doesn’t come quickly, contact your doctor.
Heat exhaustion. If you begin feeling any of the following, it may be a sign you’re your body is no longer able to maintain a healthy temperature: feeling thirsty, dizzy, muscle or body weakness, uncoordinated, nauseated, or experiencing extra sweatiness, clammy skin or a rapid pulse. Take action quickly by resting in a cool location and drinking plenty of water or other noncaffeinated and nonalcoholic liquids. Seek medical attention if you don’t feel improvement soon as untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
Heat stroke. This is the most serious outcome from high temperatures and is a medical emergency. Those who have chronic illnesses, are susceptible to dehydration or do not have air conditioning or fans are at higher risk of heat stroke. Signs include fainting, confusion, agitation, staggering, body temperature over 104 F, rapid heart rate, weak pulse, dry skin or unconsciousness. Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms.
Taking preventative steps is always the best strategy for reducing the risk of heat-related health complications. These include:
Drink plenty of liquids. Water and fruit or vegetable juices are hydrating and generally the best options. If your doctor has you on a limited liquid intake, ask for recommendations on staying well hydrated when the temperatures rise.
Stay cool. If you don’t have fans or air conditioning, find somewhere cool to stay in the warmest part of the day. Consider going to a movie, spending some time reading at the library, taking a class at Kaunoa Center, or visiting friends or family members who have air conditioning. And opt for exercising during the coolest part of the day.
Dress in cool fabrics. Loose, flowing clothes made from natural fabrics such as cotton generally breathe better than synthetic fabrics such as polyester.
Check on family and friends regularly. Whether your older family members live alone or with others, a regular phone call or drop-by visit can be an important prevention step. This can be an opportunity to assess the amount of liquids they are drinking, remind them to drink, check on the air temperature and air flow of their home or apartment, as well as identifying other changes that may point to health problems.
The information from this article has been taken from the National Institute on Aging’s “Hot Weather Safety for
Older Adults” website at www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-weather-safety-older-adults. For additional information and greater detail, visit and learn more today. Then take steps to reduce the risk of heat-related problems this summer.
* Heather Greenwood Junkermeier is with the University of Hawaii Manoa Cooperative Extension, Maui Intergenerational and Aging Programs. “Aging Matters” covers topics of interest to the aging Maui community and appears on the third Sunday of each month.