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Avoiding Heat Related Risks When You’re Getting Older
Living in Phoenix, AZ I remember long summers where it was so hot that even staying indoors caused unexplained fatigue and mild headaches. It wasn’t uncommon to see news stories about EMS services rescuing someone due to heat related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Thankfully, these are highly preventable and I’ll be giving you some practical tips to have a safe summer and avoid being on the news. At least for heat related reasons!
Stay active BUT don’t stay in direct sunlight too long. Seniors tend to have a diminished ability to regulate body temperature, recognize thirst and conserve body water. So if you’re getting up there in age, you too will have an increased risk of dehydration. Be cognizant of your fluid intake. While typically you should be having at least 8 glasses a day, drinking 8-12 glasses may not be unreasonable depending on how much time you’re spending in the sun and how high the thermometer reading is that day.
Wear loose, breathable and light-colored clothing. Remember those elementary school science experiments, or maybe those of your kids or grandkids – you may recall that light colors absorb less heat than dark ones. Cover your face! Bring out a visor, baseball cap, or that hat you bought for the first day at the horse races 5 years ago then never wore again. Wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours.. Too much sun exposure can damage the eyes and skin, acutely and long term.
Exercise in water. Consider incorporating exercise while you in are the swimming pool. This is actually a low-impact form of exercise called, Aquatics. Water provides natural resistance, a cooling effect and buoyancy. Aquatics promotes improved mobility and strength while preserving good joint integrity and taking some pressure off your bones and muscles. You can even practice aquatic exercise if you do not know how to swim. You may want to check your local health facilities/senior centers to verify if they offer formal classes. The Tri-City Wellness & Fitness Center in Carlsbad offers a variety of different aquatics classes in a warm water salt pool which are available throughout the week at various times, beginning as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 6 p.m. The center also offers tours, a free 3-day pass for locals, and a senior rate for registering members. You can find out more about the Tri-City Wellness & Fitness Center by calling 760.884.4800.
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat related illness. Depending on your health status, heat related illness can set in sooner in people with certain chronic illnesses. Speak with your physician regarding any daily medications you take which might affect your ability to regulate body temperature or fluid balance. Being aware of your body and what it needs will help keep you safe this summer.
Symptoms of heat related illnesses include:
- loss of consciousness
Phone a friend. Lastly, it’s a good idea for seniors to make a friend or relative aware of your activities and ask them to check on you periodically. Accidents can happen at any time – consider forming a buddy system where you check on your neighbor and they check on you.
Please seek medical assistance if you experience signs or symptoms of heat related illness or witness someone who is. Remember -hydrate, rest and stay in a cool place are your first line of defense against heat related emergencies. Call your physician or dial 911 if your symptoms are serious or persist despite early intervention.
Have fun, be well and stay cool!
Ronald Perez, MD
*Dr. Perez is a practicing Board Certified Family Medicine doctor in North County. He has recently opened his practice, My Family Doc off of Carlsbad Village Drive in Carlsbad and is currently welcoming new patients. Dr. Perez also speaks Filipino. When he is not working, Doc Ron enjoys spending time with his wife, 3 kids and his Maltese, Giro. He enjoys playing golf, doing DIY projects, stock picking and traveling. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Perez, please call 855.222.8262 or visit www.tricitymed.org.