Seniors most at risk for illness and death during heat waves
WASHINGTON, DC, July 19 -- Some may like it hot, but the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] warns that older Americans are at risk when summertime temperatures rise. AMAC president Dan Weber says that heat waves, the kind that have engulfed the nation recently, can cause illness and death among seniors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] on average there are more than 650 heat related deaths in the U.S. each year and many more suffer heat related illness during heat waves. Between the years of 1999 and 2010 a total of 8,081 deaths were recorded, 36% of them or 2,901 of them, were over 65 years of age.
“The elderly living in cities are most vulnerable when temperatures soar. Cities are known as ‘urban heat islands’ among weather forecasters because the streets, sidewalks and the concrete used in the construction of high rise buildings absorb the heat,” Weber explains. “For example, 1995 was a banner year for heat waves and some 1,000 people died across the country. Nearly three-quarters of those fatalities occurred in the big city of Chicago.”
Cramps, nausea, dizziness and other similar complaints during hot weather may be signs that the heat is getting the best of you and that you need to get help if these symptoms persist for more than half an hour.
“Better yet take precautions to avoid becoming a victim. Cold drinks, water and juices, are recommended. Don’t drink coffee or tea because the caffeine is dehydrating. Alcoholic beverages are also dehydrating and, thus, should be avoided on hot days. Stay in the shade if you are out of doors and wear a hat and light clothing,” Weber suggests.
He says that if you have elderly relatives or friends, check up on them from time to time. It’s important to know that if humidity accompanies the high temperatures it can prevent sweat from evaporating, which reduces the body’s ability to cool itself. In addition, the heat can cause confusion that may keep them from taking obvious steps in hot weather such as turning on the air conditioner.
“Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees. You could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature,” according to FEMA.
Weber points out that “most communities across the country make provisions for seniors in hot weather by establishing neighborhood “cooling centers” in summer, places where they can get relief if they don’t have air conditioning. These centers also provide appropriate drinks to keep them hydrated.