Heat Waves Are Particularly Dangerous for Older Adults
As any long-time New Yorker knows, the city’s weather can be just as temperamental as its residents, and sudden changes in temperature over the last week mean that now is the best time to start preparing for severe summer heat. As a person ages, their body’s ability to manage and even detect heat-related hazards can change drastically. As a result preparing for hot weather in advance of sudden heat waves is key.
The following blog offers information and advice that can help New Yorkers better prepare for severe heat and enjoy a happy, healthy season.
Extreme Heat and Age
There are several factors that make heat waves particularly dangerous for older adults, these include:
- 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 heatwaves 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 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.
Beating the Heat in New York
Extreme heat impacts everyone and the following safety tips are useful for New Yorkers of all ages.
- 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 set your air conditioned to 78 degrees to avoid causing power outages.
- 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.
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.