This week, the weather is warming up. Considering that parts of the country have been sweltering for weeks, having weather in the 70s and 80s seems like a very good thing and for the most part, it is. However, hot weather can be hard on older bodies especially as temperature climb into the 90s. Every year, very young children and much older adults die from health problems related to heat. Most of those problems are preventable so here’s a checklist of things to keep in mind as the temperatures climb.
- Older bodies don’t register heat nearly as well as younger bodies so this is one time it may make sense to ignore your body and do things in anticipation of problems. Most people in the Pacific Northwest don’t have air conditioners. A lot of us rely on fans but the point of a fan is to move air around. It doesn’t cool the air unless it’s pointed at you and loses its effectiveness once temperatures climb above 90. If the temperatures in the next few weeks climb above 90 degrees and you don’t have air conditioning go somewhere that does. Most local libraries, malls, and movie theaters expect to see more people when the weather heats up and they plan accordingly. Here’s a list of local cooling centers.
- Limit your exposure to the sun to cooler parts of the day. Very early morning and late evening is the best time to do more strenuous things like walking Fido or pulling weeds. It takes longer for older bodies to cool down once they become heated so when you do have to go out, take appropriate precautions such as wearing sunscreen (a sunburn makes it even harder to stay cool) and wearing light colored, loose clothing and a broad brimmed hat.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water or other clear liquids. Older people take longer to notice when they are thirsty and that means they may become dehydrated. Avoid alcohol or caffeine as both these substances can dry you out.
- Take tepid not cold and not hot showers or baths to cool down. Apply cool wet towels to wrists, ankles, armpits and neck to cool you down.
- Certain medicines and conditions can aggravate problems associated with heat. Heart disease, diabetes and other common diseases among the 50 and over crowd can worsen with heat. In addition, the medications used to control them may have side effects can increase the risk of heat-related problems. Check with your pharmacist or doctor to see if your condition is likely to worsen with hotter weather.