COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Aging reminds all Ohioans to treat hot temperatures and high humidity levels as severe weather. As we age our bodies may become less able to adapt to extreme conditions. In addition, older adults are more likely to have chronic health conditions that can upset normal body responses to heat, like sweating. With more health issues can also come more prescription medicines, which can also impair our bodies’ ability to regulate temperature.
As a result, older adults are at an increased risk for complications from extreme heat and heat-related illnesses. Symptoms of these conditions vary, but may include weakness, lightheadedness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, headache, unusual skin temperature or color, and disorientation. The most common types of heat-related illness include:
- Heat Cramps: Muscle cramps, most often in the legs, caused by not drinking enough to replace fluids and nutrients lost to sweating.
- Heat Exhaustion: A potentially life-threatening condition caused by not enough fluids, hot environments and high body temperatures.
- Heat Stroke: A life-threatening condition caused when the body is unable to regulate its own internal temperature in a hot and humid environment.
If you believe that you or someone you know may be suffering from a heat-related illness, take action immediately. Get the individual to a cool environment and call 9-1-1 for medical assistance.
To help avoid a potentially life-threatening heat-related illness, take steps to reduce your risk:
- Plan outdoor activities for early morning or late evening, and remain in a cool environment during the hottest part of the day.
- Drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic beverages; aim for at least eight cups of cool water per day, or 2-4 cups for every hour of activity in heat.
- If you must be outdoors or in another warm environment, wear lightweight clothing, rest frequently and avoid strenuous activity.
- If your home is not air-conditioned, use fans to circulate air and close curtains or blinds on the sides of your home where direct sunlight is coming in.
- If you can’t maintain a comfortable temperature in your home, seek a cool environment, such as a neighbor’s or loved one’s home, or a community cooling center.
Your area agency on aging may be able to direct you to local resources such as cooling centers and organizations distributing fans and other assistance. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community.
All Ohioans are encouraged to check on older loved ones during extreme weather (including very hot days) to ensure they have the resources they need to remain safe and healthy. Questions to ask include:
- What will you eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner and how will you prepare it?
- How much water are you drinking today?
- What is the temperature in your home?
- What clothing are you wearing to stay cool?
- How do you feel? Have you been dizzy, disoriented, weak or nauseated?
- Who will you call for help if you need it?
Hot temperatures and high humidity are severe weather. Treat hot days just as you would a stormy or snowy day. Have a plan to stay cool, recognize the signs of heat-related illness and check on older loved ones and neighbors.