The ongoing heat wave likely has many Coastal Georgia residents longing for the frigid winter months we couldn’t wait to be rid of just a short time ago. But since we’re not likely to receive a light dusting of snow any time soon, taking refuge in comfortable, air-conditioned spaces will have to do for now. Taking a dip in a nearby lake or swimming pool also is a great way to cool down and relieve the discomfort associated with heat indexes that soar past 100 degrees.
But high heat and humidity not only are uncomfortable — they can be downright dangerous, especially for children and the elderly. The body’s internal temperature normally is controlled and regulated by heat loss through the skin and by evaporation. Aging causes a decrease in the body’s ability to adjust to heat and to sense temperature extremes, according to www.seniorshomecare.com. In addition, elderly people are more likely to suffer from chronic health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, which may elevate a person’s susceptibility to heat-related problems. To compound the issue, many senior citizens on fixed incomes cannot afford to air-condition their homes.
When temperatures reach the 90s, it’s time to take precautionary measures. People whose homes are not air-conditioned should go to a place that is, such as a grocery store, senior center or library. Fans are not sufficient in extremely hot weather. Water consumption is essential. Drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol should be avoided. Regardless of age, everyone should stay out of the sun as much as possible.
People who work outdoors or otherwise cannot avoid the heat should know the causes and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion, which happens when those who are not well-adjusted to hot weather overexert themselves, include profuse sweating, cool and moist skin, muscle cramps or pain, feeling dizzy or faint and complaints of nausea, headache, weakness and thirst. The body temperature of someone suffering from heat exhaustion may break 100 degrees and the person’s pulse rate will quicken, according to www.livestrong.com.
Heatstroke tends to occur in those whose medical conditions or medications impair their bodies’ ability to perspire. Heatstroke victims may have hot, dry skin, hyperventilation and a marked increase in body temperature up to 105 degrees. Acting confused, hallucinations and falling unconscious also are signs of heatstroke.
So keep a close eye on your own wellness and that of those around you. Don’t hesitate to head to a hospital if you suspect someone is suffering from a heat-related illness. By exercising caution and putting safety first, health emergencies — and potential tragedies — can be averted.