HELPING OLDER PEOPLE STAY SAFE IN THE HEAT.

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Summer weather can pose special health risks to older adults and people with chronic medical conditions, cautions the National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Md.

Hyperthermia, for instance, is caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body. Heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are forms of hyperthermia. Older adults are at risk for these conditions, and this risk can increase with the combination of higher temperature, individual lifestyle, and general health.

Lifestyle factors can include not drinking enough fluids, living in housing without air conditioning, lack of mobility and access to transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places, and not understanding how to respond to hot weather conditions.

Older people, particularly those with chronic medical conditions, should stay indoors in cooler spaces on hot, humid days, especially when an air pollution alert is in effect. People without air conditioning should go to places that have it, such as senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters, and libraries. Cooling centers --which may be set up by local public health agencies, religious groups, and social service organizations --are another option.

Factors that increase the risk of hyperthermia include dehydration; high blood pressure; heart, lung, and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever; use of multiple medications; reduced sweating, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives...

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