By: Chris Cooper, Wellness Director
Many residents enjoy outdoor activity year-round. Whether it’s walking to the circle or over the bridge, strolling the campus or playing bocce, exercising safely and using precautions while in the Florida sun is crucial. Overexposure to the sun and heat put everyone at risk for hyperthermia, but according to the National Institutes of Health, it is particularly dangerous for an older population.
Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature and includes all of the following:
-Heat Syncope — a sudden dizziness during activity in hot weather. Note: If you take a beta-blocker heart medication, you are even more likely to feel faint.
-Heat Cramps — a painful tightening of muscles in your stomach, arms, or legs. The body temperature and pulse usually stay normal during heat cramps; your skin may feel moist and cool.
-Heat Edema — a swelling in your ankles and feet when you get hot.
-Heat Exhaustion — a warning that your body can no longer keep itself cool. You might feel thirsty, dizzy, weak, uncoordinated, and nauseated. You may sweat a lot. Your body temperature may stay normal, but your skin may feel cold and clammy. Some people with heat exhaustion have a rapid pulse. Untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to life-threatening heat stroke.
-Heat Stroke — an EMERGENCY requiring medical help immediately. Signs of heat stroke include: fainting or becoming unconscious; behavior change – confusion, agitation, staggering, being grouchy; body temperature over 104°F (40°C); Dry, flushed skin and a strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse; not sweating (even if it is hot outside).
According to the National Institute on Aging, most people who die from hyperthermia are over 50 years old. Health problems that put this population at greater risk include:
-Heart or blood vessel problems
-Poorly working sweat glands or changes in your skin caused by normal aging
-Heart, lung, or kidney disease, and any illness that makes you feel weak or results in a fever
-Conditions treated by drugs, such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and high blood pressure medicines. They may make it harder for your body to cool itself.
-Prescription drugs; ask your doctor if any may make you more likely to become overheated
-Being very overweight or underweight
-Drinking alcoholic beverages
Reduce your risk! If you prefer the outdoors for exercise, consider ways to reduce your risk for a heat-related illness. Check the weather before you go out — not only current air temperature, but also humidity and UV ray levels are easily obtainable on your cell phone or on the web. Make sure you are hydrated before you go out; stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle with you. Keep yourself cool in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, and do not forget a hat. Do not exercise, garden, or even lie by the pool during the hottest time of day (10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.). Your best location when it really heats up? The Wellness Center! Temperature-controlled to 72 degrees year-round, and you can’t beat the view.
Source: Calvin, Kim. “Advice for older people on staying safe in hot weather.” National Institute on Aging. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 11 July 2016. Web. 16 May 2017.