HARRISBURG – As the summer continues to usher in hot temperatures with high humidity, the departments of Aging and Health are urging all Pennsylvanians but especially older adults to take steps to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from potentially deadly heat-related illnesses. Seniors may be less able to respond to extreme temperatures and taking certain medication can affect how a person’s body reacts to heat.
“Some seniors may not have access to fans, air conditioners or other support options to adequately get through a period of extreme heat, so it’s important that all of us check on our older family members, neighbors, and friends to make sure they stay cool and are managing well,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. “Pennsylvania’s network of Area Agencies on Aging is a great resource for older adults to learn about senior community centers acting as cooling stations in their neighborhood and other supports that may be available. Seniors can also check with their local municipality to find out if there are libraries, churches or other facilities that may be offering opportunities to keep cool.”
Seniors and all Pennsylvanians are urged to follow these safety tips to avoid heat-related illnesses:
- Drink plenty of water and do not wait until you are thirsty to drink more fluids;
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar, as they can cause dehydration (loss of body fluids);
- Stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible – this is the best way to protect against heat-related illness and death;
- Avoid long periods in the direct sun or in unventilated rooms;
- If you must be outside in the heat, reschedule activities for cooler times of the day, and try to rest often in shady areas;
- Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses – and use a sunscreen of SPF15 or higher;
- Take frequent baths or showers and remain in a cool place;
- Check on those who might be more at risk from high temperatures like infants, children, or older individuals; and
- Never leave children or pets inside vehicles.
“Older adults are particularly vulnerable to the summer’s high temperatures and humidity that can lead to heat exhaustion and heat strokes,” Acting Secretary of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said. “During this time of the year, we ask Pennsylvanians to be good neighbors and check on our most vulnerable citizens who may have limited mobility or may not have a way to easily escape the heat.”
The most common heat-related illnesses are heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Warning signs include extreme body temperature, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, and confusion. If you or loved ones develop heat stroke symptoms, get medical assistance right away. Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and fainting.
For more information, visit the Department of Health’s website or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH
Older adults can visit the Department of Aging’s website to find their local Area Agency on Aging.