Enjoy summer but be prepared for the heat
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“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy” – as long as you pay attention to the heat, that is. 

Excess heat can be a strain for anybody, but it can be especially problematic for those of advanced age. Older people simply do not adjust as easily to big changes in temperature as younger ones. 

In addition, as those who take care of elderly patients know, most seniors take medications and some of those medications can affect how the body regulates temperature.

 What are the signs of heat stroke?

Excess heat can cause a variety of problems, but the most dangerous one is heat stroke. Here are some signs of heat stroke:

• Body temperature of 103 degrees or higher;

• Very rapid pulse;

• Upset stomach or nausea;

• Dizziness or vertigo;

• Red and hot but dry skin accompanied by absence or near absence of perspiration.

  Symptoms of dehydration:

• Confusion;

• Chronic fatigue and lethargy;

• Drowsiness;

• Labored speech;

• Dry mouth;

• Sunken eyeballs;

• Unable to urinate or pass only small amounts of dark or deep yellow urine.

 How can I prevent heat stroke and other heat issues?

Lightweight, light-colored clothing is a must on hot days. There are a number of things you can do to help prevent excess heat from  becoming an issue. These include:

• Stay cool: Everyone wants to enjoy a lovely summer day, but if it’s excessively hot, keep your senior loved one inside. If you don’t have adequate air conditioning and the house is too hot, go to a public area with cool air, such as a library or a mall. Be an early bird or an almost-night owl. On high heat days when a little fresh air is needed, plan to go outside early in the morning before it gets too hot or in the early evening when it has cooled off a little; however, if it is still very hot during these times, stay inside or limit your outdoor time.

 • Water up: It’s important to stay hydrated, so drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol or sugary drinks, as these can make you lose body fluids. Any drink that contains caffeine acts as a diuretic. This includes tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks. Pineapple juice and lemon juice are natural diuretics according to the horticulture department at Purdue University. 

Stick with a nice glass of cool water. It can be overwhelming to your loved one to have a large glass of water placed in front of them, making them resistant to drinking it. In this case place a smaller, juice size glass in front of them, perhaps only filled half way and they are more likely to drink it and you can throughout the day refill it.

Lack of water is the number one trigger of daytime fatigue.  Aside from replenishing what is lost in order to hydrate the blood and tissues, water also lubricates joints, regulates temperature and moistens the lungs to allow for breathing. Inadequate water intake over time prevents these processes from occurring, leading to arthritis, sore muscles, heavy breathing and a higher body temperature. This means not drinking enough water over time can result in more severe effects at an older age, which means preventable problems during what should be the golden years. Virtually nothing takes place in the body without water playing a vital role.

• Dress cool: Your fashion choices should run to the lightweight and the light-colored. The summer fashion critic says, “Think loose when picking your outfit. Tight is out on really hot days.” Don’t park and sit. Avoid leaving anyone in a parked car with the motor off on hot days, even if the windows are rolled down.

• Splash about: A nice cool shower or bath can help regulate the body temperature on days when the thermometer keeps pulsing higher. It can be refreshing to soak your feet in a cool pan of water. Placing a cold wet rag on your forehead, around your neck or on wrists too can cool the body.

 When taking care of elderly people, remember to be on the lookout for signs of heat illness. If you think that a loved one may have heat stroke, call your doctor immediately or 911.

On a side note, I hope everyone had a fun and safe 4th of July.

Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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