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Senior Life: Tips for Healthy Living - Summer Safety Tips

Pharmacy

Heat Related Illnesses 

According to the CDC, approximately 618 people die in the United States each year from heat-related deaths and illnesses.  These deaths are preventable, so make sure to keep you and your loved ones safe and hydrated this summer when you are out in the heat. 

Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps, heat rash, and sunburn are illnesses that occur when the body cannot cool itself properly. Normally the body is able to keep cool by sweating, however, in extreme temperatures, this may not be sufficient and the body temperature increases more quickly than it can cool itself.

People with chronic conditions along with both children and older adults are at the highest risk of heat-related illness. However, young, healthy people can also be affected, especially with intense physical activity in extreme heat. Other factors that may increase the risk of developing heat-related illnesses include: 

  • High humidity
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Obesity, heart disease, and/or mental illness
  • Poor circulation
  • Sunburn
  • Alcohol use

Protect Yourself

There are many strategies you can use to decrease your risk of heat-related illnesses, some of which are listed below. 

  • Wear clothing that is lightweight and loose fitting while avoiding dark colors.  
  • Remain in air-conditioning as much as you are able. Go to public places if your home is not air conditioned. 
    • Fans may provide comfort, but if the temperature is in the upper 90s or higher, fans will not prevent illness from heat. A cool bath or air conditioning will help cool off.
  • Use your oven/stove less often to keep your home cool.
  • Morning and evening hours are best for scheduling outdoor activities. 
  • Decrease exercise in warm temperatures. Start exercising slowly and gradually increase intensity. Stop if you are having trouble breathing and find a cool area to rest. 
    • This is very important if you feel confused, weak, lightheaded or faint. 
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, applying at least 20 minutes before going outside and reapplying as directed. 
    • Sunburn will make it more difficult for your body to cool itself and can lead to dehydration. 
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and skin from the sun’s UV rays and to decrease the risk of cataracts. Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays noting that those that wrap-around provide the best protection. 
  • Don’t wait until you are thirsty and starting to get dehydrated. Be sure to stay on top of your hydration before it is too late.  
  • If your fluid intake is limited by your doctor or healthcare provider or you are on diuretics (water pills), consult with your provider so you know how much to drink in hot weather. 
  • Avoid alcoholic or sugary drinks as they lead to more fluid loss. 
  • Patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or who are on sodium restricted diets should discuss rehydration options with their provider. 
  • Watch the weather closely. 

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of various heat-related illnesses (see table below). While some overlap, there are some key differences in how to recognize and take action if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a heat-related illness.

Heat Stroke

Signs and Symptoms

Action

Temperature of 103 degrees or greater

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Move the person to a cool place
  • Use cool cloths or a cold bath
  • Do not give them anything to drink

Headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion

Passing out

Fast, strong pulse; hot/red/dry/damp skin

Heat Exhaustion

Heavy sweating

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen clothes
  • Use cool cloths or take a cool bath

Seek medical assistance if: 

  • Throwing up
  • Symptoms are worsening
  • Symptoms last >1 hour

Nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, dizziness, headache

Tiredness or weakness; fainting

Fast, weak pulse; cold, pale, and clammy skin

Heat Cramps

Heavy sweating while exercising intensely

  • Stop activity and find cool place
  • Drink water or sports drink
  • Rest until cramps resolve

Seek medical assistance if: 

  • Lasts >1 hour
  • You’re on sodium restricted diet
  • You have heart conditions

Muscle spasms or pain

Sunburn

Skin that is painful, warm, and red

  • Avoid sun until it heals
  • Apply cool cloths or take a cool bath
  • Moisturizing lotion 
  • Leave blisters in-tact

Blisters

Heat Rash

Clusters of small blisters that look like pimples.

Usually on the chest, neck, groin, or elbow creases.

  • Remain in cool, dry place
  • Keep dry
  • Baby powder can be used to soothe rash

Stop in and talk with your Lewis pharmacist today. They will gladly help you pick out various products to help keep you safe and healthy in the heat this summer!. 

Courtney Feist, PharmD

Lewis Drug

References: 

CDC- National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Extreme Heat. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/.... May 30, 2021.

CDC-Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sun Safety. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ski.... May 30, 2021

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