Summer heat in New York City is here to stay, but with a little preparation, you don’t need to break a sweat protecting yourself or your loved ones during a heat wave.
Extreme Heat and Older Adults
Extreme heat typically has a more significant effect on older adults due to how our bodies change as we age, as well as external factors like prescription medication and lowered contact with others.
- As we age, the body’s ability to retain water decreases, as well as the body’s ability to detect growing thirst. During hot weather, it is critical that older adults make a conscious effort to drink more water – typically a glass of water every hour during extremely hot and humid conditions. Other beverages like beer and soda may feel refreshing, but actually increase dehydration levels and make people more susceptible to heat spikes.
- Prescription medication can also impact a body’s resistance to extreme heat. This is especially true for people taking cardiovascular, diuretic, hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease drugs. If you are on any prescription medication, it is important to speak to your doctor and learn how they might impact your ability to manage heat.
- It’s not uncommon for older people to spend more time indoors. While this is perfectly safe during heat waves if the apartment is well-ventilated or air-conditioned, it also means others are less likely to notice if a senior needs help. Having a neighbor, family member or friend perform regular check-ins, either by phone or in person, during heat waves can help ensure everything is okay.
- Spending hot days in an air-conditioned location is the best way to protect you from summer heat. If you use a window-mounted AC unit, it’s important you install the unit before a heatwave, as these units often weigh 50 pounds or more and setting them up can be quite strenuous. Having an assistant can make installation a much safer process.
- During heatwaves, New York City opens a variety of air-conditioned cooling centers in every borough. These spaces (typically libraries, schools and some government offices) are air conditioned and made available to anyone who needs respite from the heat.
Managing Summer Heat
Heat waves can be a rough experience regardless of age and other factors, so be sure to keep the following general tips in mind when heat and humidity creep to the extremes.
- Temperatures reach their peak between 11 am and 4 pm during the summer months. If possible, try to avoid outdoor activities and errands during this time.
- Air conditioning is the best way to stay cool during a heatwave, but be conscious of how much electricity you are using. Try to keep your air conditioner set to 78 degrees, which will keep you safe without overtaxing your local electrical grid.
- Dress for the weather by wearing loose, light clothing that breathes, as well as a hat that protects your face and neck from the sun.
Understanding Heat Exhaustion
When a person begins to overheat, they will often display symptoms of heat exhaustion. These symptoms include: dizziness or fainting, nausea, sweating, rapid weak pulse, fatigue, headache, cramps and cool, moist, pale skin.
If someone is experiencing these symptoms, especially an older adult or young child, they should be moved to an air-conditioned space immediately and hydrated with cold water while you call for medical assistance. Spraying cool water on the person, or offering them cool, wet sponges to place on the back of their neck, head and armpits can also help lower the person’s temperature while you wait for help to arrive.
There’s nothing quite like summer in the city, and the team at SelectCare hopes that this early reminder helps our community enjoy the season safely. With more than 30 years of experience helping New Yorkers live happily and healthily in their long-time homes, our staff is here to help your family no matter what challenges you face.