Weather in Memphis went from unseasonably cool to dangerously hot with high heat indexes. The Heat Index (HI) is a number that tells people how warm it actually feels. The body doesn’t release heat through the evaporation of sweat as effectively and especially dangerous for seniors (or anyone else) exercising outdoors in a high heat index. Even a mild activity, such as walking can cause problems.
“Seniors are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of heat, as their bodies do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature,” shares Dr. Lubna Javed of HealthCare Partners Medical Group. “Some chronic medical conditions and prescription medications can impair the body’s ability to react efficiently to rising temperature.”
Know the Risks of Hyperthermia. Heat stroke is an advanced form of hyperthermia that can be life-threatening. Learn these warning signs and get medical attention immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms:
Body temperature greater than 103 degrees; Change in behavior, such as confusion or agitation; Dry, flushed skin; Nausea and vomiting; Fatigue and weakness, headache; Heavy breathing or a rapid pulse; Not sweating, even if it’s hot out; Fainting. Muscle cramps and heavy sweating may occur with heat exhaustion.
If symptoms occur go to a cooler environment immediately and lower the body temperature by using cool water (a pool, cool tub, cool shower or washcloth wipe-down. Drink chilled, but not icy cold water. Heat exhaustion can be a life- threatening emergency, so call for emergency medical personnel) or 911 (if on-site help is not available) immediately.
Avoid a Heat Emergency. Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion to keep seniors safe in hot weather. Many seniors with memory issues don’t recognize changes in temperature immediately, stay alert for symptoms, prompt for re-hydration, and remind loved ones to remove extra clothing layers outdoors.
Stay Hydrated. As we age we lose our ability to conserve water and become less aware of our thirst. Drink plenty of cool water throughout the day and avoid alcohol and caffeine. Pack extra water for outings. But if taking water pills or other medication, check with your doctor to find out exactly how much water you should be drinking on warm days. Drink sweat replacement products (that contain salt and potassium) to replace water lost by perspiration. Eat cooling snacks like popsicles or slightly frozen grapes or watermelon, and light, cold meals like chicken or pasta salad instead of heavy, hot dishes like pot roast.
Place a cool washcloth on the back of the neck and a pan of cool water close by to periodically re-cool the towel…Sit with feet in a pan of cool (but not too cold) water. Keep the house as cool as possible by keeping shades closed during the hottest part of the day.
Stay in Touch. High temperatures can be life-threatening, so let friends and family know if you’ll be spending an extended period of time outdoors, even if you’re only gardening.
Wear the Right Stuff. Dress for the weather. Natural fabrics (such as cotton) are cooler than synthetic fibers. Light-colored and loose-fitting clothes feel cooler and more comfortable. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and sunscreen when outdoors. Hats are also a great idea, especially for those with light colored hair and those with only distant memories of a full head of hair.
Exercise Smart. If you enjoy outdoor activities such as walking or gardening, keep track of time. Don’t’ stay out for long periods and make sure to drink even more water than usual when exercising. Exercise outside earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is not at its peak.
Find indoor activities like that exercise class you were thinking of joining or learn to use the equipment in the Oasis or take a refreshing dip in the pool. At Kirby Pines we have many indoor exercise options with a variety of exercise classes. Check out the Sit and Stand Exercise class at 11:00 Live streaming on Channel 10 on Tuesdays and Thursdays or the Yoga class on Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:45 on channel 10. Enjoy exercising in the cool of your home. The Pool is open for water walking and exercise (Team up with a workout buddy so you are not alone in the water). The Oasis has free weights and 10 different machines to build strength and endurance. Mary Hand will be glad to show you how to use the equipment and start your own exercise program.
The summertime is a time of fun and relaxation for most people. But for seniors, the heat and sun can be dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken. If you follow these tips, you can have an enjoyable and fun-filled summer — no matter how old you are.