By DAN WEBER
Association Of Mature American Citizens
All the indicators suggest that we are in for a long, hot summer and that’s not good news for senior citizens.
What could be better than a sunny summer day, with gentle breezes keeping temperatures smack-dab in the middle of your comfort zone? But, the number of heat waves we can expect in much of the U.S. this summer is anticipated to be greater than usual, as projected by several authoritative sources. And the older you are, the more important it is that you keep cool because heat waves can be deadly.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and even the Farmer’s Almanac predict well above average warmth in the coming months.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that during an average summer about 175 people die from the heat. But when things heat up above the norm, the numbers of such deaths can skyrocket. In 1995, for example, more than 1,000 people died during what was one of the worst heat waves ever experienced in modern times. Chicago was hardest hit with 739 fatalities, mostly among the elderly.
You can tell if the heat is getting the best of you when you experience symptoms such as muscle cramping, fatigue headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fainting.
There’s not much you can do about the weather, but you can take some precautions when temperatures start to climb. Drink water or fruit juice and avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea, as caffeine is dehydrating. Find a cool spot, such as a room with good ventilation or, better yet, a room that is air-conditioned. If you find yourself out of doors, stay in the shade as much as possible and don’t forget to wear a hat. Choose the clothes you wear carefully. Make sure your clothing is lightweight and light-colored and that it isn’t constraining.
The Association of Mature American Citizens, AMAC, also suggests that you keep tabs on elderly relatives and neighbors when it is hot and humid. Be aware that the humidity can prevent sweat from evaporating, in turn reducing its normal cooling effect. So look in on them from time to time during long stretches of hot weather.
Bear in mind that many seniors suffer from poor circulation and may feel too ‘cold’ to sit tight in an air-conditioned room. The medications they take, likewise, can affect blood pressure and respiration, particularly during times of extreme heat.
Dan Weber is president of The Association of Mature American Citizens, (http://www.amac.us) a senior advocacy organization that acts and speaks on behalf of its members. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of this paper or its corporate ownership.