Steps You Need to Take When Hot Weather, Humidity Hit  

Try eating fruits, veggies to increase your fluid intake
Steps You Need to Take When Hot Weather, Humidity Hit

Hot summer days can be dangerous for older adults. If this is you, you’re at higher risk than others for dehydration and heat exhaustion when heat and humidity climb.

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There are two reasons why older adults need to take special care, says geriatrician Ronan Factora, MD.

One is that as we get older, our bodies don’t produce as much sweat. Perspiration helps you to cool off by evaporating and dissipating heat.

Many people also take medications that can affect the body’s ability to produce perspiration, Dr. Factora says.

The other reason is that older adults often have less water in their bodies because they often have a diminished ability to perceive thirst and recognize that they are dehydrated, Dr. Factora says.  Less water in the body means that even if you do produce perspiration,  the small fluid loss can more easily cause or worsen dehydration.

These two factors put older adults at greater risk of heat-related medical conditions that include heat stroke, exhaustion and fatigue.

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“What happens with normal aging is that you have less water in your body and you’re more at risk for dehydration, Dr. Factora says. “Also, older adults don’t sweat as much so they are more likely to develop a higher temperature, hyperthermia and heat stroke.”

Avoiding heat-related illness

The best way to avoid a heat-related illness is probably no surprise: Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

“Make sure that you drink at least six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day on a regular basis,” Dr. Factora says. “If the temperature is higher or you’re spending a lot of time outdoors or if the air conditioner is not on, you need to pay even closer attention to your water intake to make sure you’re taking in enough fluids.”

To decrease the risk of a heat-related illness:

  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after spending time outside.
  • Stay in the shade or a cool area.
  • Take lots of breaks from activity.
  • Wear clothing that helps you stay cool, like cotton material and hats.

You can even eat juicy fruits, such as watermelon, which is 90 percent water, to keep your fluid intake up. Also try oranges, grapefruit and melons like cantaloupe and honeydew, Dr. Factora says.

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Vegetables, though not as full of water as fruit, also can provide a nutrient-rich source of fluids. Try celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers or Romaine lettuce.

Most important, Dr. Factora says, is to pay attention to changes in your body related to heat. In particular, watch for:

  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • dark yellow urine

”If you’re feeling tired, fatigued, or dizzy, it’s time to take a break, sit down, relax and drink some more fluids,” Dr. Factora says. “If there are any signs of confusion, you’re probably overexposed to the heat.”

Some people will become flushed and red because they can’t sweat.

If heat-related symptoms persist, it’s time to seek medical help.

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