NORTH LITTLE ROCK — According to theNational Institute on Aging, hundreds of people die from hyperthermia each yearduring very hot weather and most are over 50 years old. Beth Landon, CareLink’svice president for community services, urges older people and those caring forolder family members to be aware of risk factors, symptoms and preventivemeasures.
“Often the normal aging process can make the body unable to perspire andcool itself,” Landon said. Because of this and other risk factors, the temperatureoutside or inside does not have to hit 100 degrees for older and chronically illpeople to be in danger of heat-related illness.[more]
Other risk factors include:
• Heart or blood vessel problems or poorly working sweat glands.
• Heart, lung or kidney disease, as well as any illness that causes weaknessor fever.
• High blood pressure or other conditions that require a low-salt diet.
• Taking prescribed drugs such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers andsome heart and blood pressure medicines that can affect the body’s ability toperspire.
• Being quite a bit overweight or underweight.
• Drinking alcoholic beverages.
“Older people who don’t have air conditioning or good airflow in theirhomes are in the most danger for serious illness during extreme heat,” Landonsaid.
Being too hot for too long can cause any of the following hyperthermicconditions:
• Heat cramps—painful tightening of muscles in the stomach area, armsor legs; can result from hard work or exercise. Body temperature and pulseusually stay normal but skin may feel moist and cool. Treatment: cool down anddrink plenty of fluids without caffeine or alcohol.
• Heat edema—swelling in ankles and feet. Treatment: rest in a cool placewith legs elevated; if that doesn’t work, check with doctor.
• Heat syncope—sudden dizziness while being active in the heat. Peopletaking a beta blocker heart medication or who are not used to hot weather aremore likely to feel faint in the heat. Treatment: same as above.
• Heat exhaustion—a warning that the body can no longer keep itself cool;symptoms include thirst, dizziness, weakness, loss of coordination, nausea,profuse sweating, normal temperature with cold and clammy skin. Pulse can benormal or high. Treatment: rest in a cool place, drink plenty of fluids; medicalcare may be necessary to prevent heat stroke.
•Heat stroke—a life threatening condition requiring immediate medicalhelp. Symptoms can include fainting, body temperature over 104 degrees, changein behavior (confusion, staggering), dry flushed skin, strong rapid pulse or slowweak pulse, acting delirious or being in a coma. Treatment: try to cool the victimwhile getting medical help.
To minimize the dangers of heat, older people especially should be awareof heat advisories and avoid outdoor activity during the hottest periods. Wearinglight-colored cotton or linen clothes can help beat the heat. Everyone shoulddrink at least eight glasses of water or juice a day; alcohol and caffeine should beavoided because they make the body lose fluid.
Those who live in homes without fans or air conditioning should openwindows at night, cover windows when they are in direct sunlight and try tospend at least two hours during the hottest part of the day in an air-conditionedplace like a shopping mall, library, or senior center.
“Some people may have air conditioning but are afraid they won’t be ableto pay the electric bill,” Landon said. “They can call CareLink to ask aboutfunding sources like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program,” shesaid.
CareLink is a private, nonprofit agency serving older people and theirfamily caregivers in Faulkner, Lonoke, Monroe, Prairie, Pulaski and Salinecounties. Information and assistance specialists are available 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday to answer questionsabout services for older people at 501-372-5300 or 800-482-6359 or email@example.com.