Older adults and staying safe in the heat





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Published on Jul 6, 2010

Baltimore, MD - Dr. Alicia Arbaje of Johns Hopkins School of medicine joined Jamie Costello on Good Morning Maryland and gave viewers a ton of information on how to help the elderly stay safe during the scorching days.

If you have elderly relatives living with you or next door to you, it is important that they are checked on frequently since the heat can really make them sick.

She gave the following tips and information on how we can help the elderly stay healthy:

Why do older adults have more problems in the heat?
• Can't feel the heat or cool down as easily
• Less likely to feel thirsty even when they are almost dehydrated
• Chronic medical problems (heart disease, diabetes), and the medicines used to treat them (water pills, allergy/sinus medications, medicines for depression/anxiety), can make it more difficult to be in the heat

How to stay safe when the weather is hot
• Lower your standards: 90 degrees is already too hot for many older adults
• Go to an air-conditioned area (home, grocery store, mall, senior center, library)
• Avoid strenuous activity
• Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing and hats
• Stay hydrated (not just water—see below)
• Monitor your urine (light yellow is good)

What are warning signs of dehydration or heat stroke?
• Dizziness, confusion
• Weakness, headache
• Muscle cramps, nausea/vomiting
• Fast pulse, sweating (but not always), passing out

What to do if you notice a problem
• Get out of the heat ASAP and call for help if you cannot
• Water is good, but it's not enough if you are sweating—drink a sports drink
o Sweat contains salts (sodium and potassium chloride)
o Many sweat replacement drinks on the market, get one for marathoners
• Go back to water when you are out of the heat, especially if you have high blood pressure or congestive heart failure
• Call your doctor if you are taking water pills or blood pressure lowering medications and are sweating to suggest lowering the dose or stopping until you can get out of the heat
• Weigh yourself to see how much to replace by drinking
• Keep good urine flow: 200-300cc, or about 1-1.5 cups, every 3-4 hours

Dr Arbaje says making your own sweat replacement drink is easy and gave the following quick and easy recipe:
• 1 quart (32 oz) or 1 liter water
• 1/3 cup sugar
• ¼ teaspoon table salt
• Flavoring to taste -- ex: orange or lemon juice
• Keep refrigerated

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