During the summer, high temperatures can have several adverse effects on health that should be monitored and prevented whenever possible. Springer Publishing Company wants to highlight the need to remain aware of vulnerable populations, particularly elderly people, children, and pets, that may require additional attention in dealing with summer heat.
The following content is adapted from the New York City Government Heat Brochure as well as Springer Publishing Company's new title Aging, Society, and the Life Course, Fifth Edition by Leslie A. Morgan and Suzanne R. Kunkel.
Understand the risk factors of heat waves:
People at greatest risk during periods of extreme heat are those who:
- Are 65 years or older
- Have chronic medical conditions or take psychotropic or other medications
- Have impaired judgement from dementia or serious mental illness
- Abuse drugs or drink heavily
- Are socially isolated or home-bound
- Are overweight
If you have a medical condition, check with your physician about precautions you should take during hot weather.
In the event of a forecasted heat wave:
- Help keep your home cool by installing window shades or awnings to block the sun.
- If you have an air conditioner, make sure it works properly.
- If you don’t have air conditioning, keep your windows open so fresh air may flow through your home.
- If you cannot cool your home, consider going to an air-conditioned shopping mall, library, friend or relative’s home, or a cooling center.
Beat the Heat Tips:
- Stay in a cool place as much as possible. Use an air conditioner if you have one, and set the thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
- Check on your neighbors, family, and friends, especially if they are vulnerable to heat-related hazards.
- Fans work best at night, when they can bring in cooler air from outside.
- Drink fluids — particularly water — even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar. One of the greatest dangers of heat exposure is dehydration.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.
- Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car during periods of intense heat.
- Cool showers or baths may be helpful, but avoid extreme temperature changes.
- Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the hottest time of day.
- When outdoors, avoid direct sunlight, wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15), and a hat to protect your face and head. A heat index above 95 degrees is especially dangerous for vulnerable people.
If you have neighbors, family, or friends who are at increased risk, especially those who live alone, make sure they have access to air conditioning and, if needed, offer to help them get to a cool location.
The elderly population is one of the vulnerable groups of people who are at increased risk of dehydration, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion during heat waves. An age-friendly environment provides services and amenities (such as housing, transportation, outdoor space, and social services) that support older adults to be safely active, engaged, and integrated into their communities. However, as we age and spend time in our own spaces, we are often quite hesitant to give them up. Studies have consistently shown that older adults prefer to continue living in their own spaces—apartments, condos, houses, etc. During heat waves, it is important to be aware of these older adults and make sure that our community remains age-friendly and safe for our elderly family members, acquaintances, and neighbors.