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How Seniors Can Beat the Heat

With summer temperatures across the USA continually hitting the 90s and beyond into triple digits, seniors are particularly susceptible to a number of heat-related maladies.

Most notable are heat stroke and heat exhaustion because seniors’ bodies are not able to tolerate hot conditions as well as they did when they were younger.

Warning signs of heat stroke include dizziness, faintness, nausea, and cramping, particularly in legs and arms.

Also, be aware if your pulse rate is elevated or weak, or your body temperature soars into triple digits. If your body temperature reaches 103 degrees, that is a severe danger zone that can lead to permanent organ failure and even death.

According to a University of Chicago Medical Center Study noted in, 40 percent of heat-related deaths in the U.S. are among people over 65.

But there are ways if not completely to beat the heat, then at least to make it more tolerable. Here are several tips from several sources including AARP and

  1. Drink lots of water. One of the biggest causes of heat stroke is lack of hydration. That’s why it is so important for those 65 and over to have plenty of cold water on hand to stay hydrated and refreshed.

  2. Place a cool washcloth on the back of your neck and have a bowl or pan of water nearby to keep the washcloth – and you – cool. Also, have a pan of cool water (not cold) and periodically put your feet in for a few minutes at a time.

  3. While many of us can’t be without our coffee, the more java (as well as tea, soda, and alcohol) you drink, the more dehydrated you become.

  4. Whether central air or window units, if you have air conditioning, use it! If you have to run outside errands, do so early in the morning, before full ramifications of a day’s heat hits.

  5. Sans AC, fans can keep you cool, but with a caveat: the hotter it gets inside, the more fans become conduits to move the hot air around.

  6. Keep as much sunlight – and heat – out by keeping windows covered. According to one AARP study, awnings or louvers can reduce the amount of heat by as much as 80 percent!

  7. Wear light – both color and weight-wise – clothing. The looser the fit, the cooler you will be. If you’re going to be in the sun, don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat, and liberally apply sun block.

  8. Eat meals that are light and balanced. Good suggestions include tuna, chicken, or pasta salad. Avoid heavy food like pot roast and steaks (not to mention how cooking them will add heat to your abode).

  9. Have family members check on you regularly, or have a system where you and fellow seniors check on each other at least twice a day.

  10. Take all medicine as prescribed. Sometimes, heat can make us apathetic towards taking our meds. But don’t forget that medications have to be taken whether it’s 90 degrees or 30 degrees.

  11. If you have any discomfort, feel dizzy or nauseous, have headaches or muscle cramps or the like, take a break and slowly drink cold water. If you don’t improve, seek medical attention immediately.

  12. Many seniors like to take cold showers to cool off. While that may have some soothing effect, the shock of a cold shower can actually bring on hypothermia.

  13. In addition to several bottles of water in your refrigerator, also keep three or four in your freezer. This is especially helpful if your power goes out for any period of time.

  14. Find the nearest local cooling center in your community. Best places to check: local library, senior center, shopping center, coffee shop, and recreation center.

  15. If you or family members are unable to drive or get to cooling stations, see if there are senior vehicles or transportation companies that will take you to/from for free or a nominal fee.

While the key to being cool is staying cool, the #1 way to do so – and to stay that way – is preparation. Make sure you have a game plan ahead of time and you’ll stay as cool as possible.