Another hot one: Elderly at greater risk for heat stroke - WNEM TV 5

Another hot one: Elderly at greater risk for heat stroke

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Elderly at greater risk for heat stroke Elderly at greater risk for heat stroke
Don’t forget the sunscreen Don’t forget the sunscreen
The Northeast will approach triple digits The Northeast will approach triple digits
SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

If you need a reminder that summer has officially started, just walk outside: Temperatures across the Northeast are expected to approach triple digits.

The National Weather Service has forecast potentially record-breaking hot temperatures just as the season officially begins Wednesday, the summer solstice and longest day of the year.

Readings are expected to be in the mid- to high-90s Wednesday and Thursday in cities including Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Humidity could make it feel even hotter.

Health officials warned residents to drink water, stay out of the sun and in air conditioning, and to check on elderly neighbors and pets. For those without air conditioning, "cooling centers" have been set up in public buildings in dozens of cities.

Locally, high temperatures will reach the mid 90s with heat indices in the upper 90s for most of Mid-Michigan.  The forecast today also calls for breezy southwest winds between 15 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph.

Meanwhile, the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, increases with age, experts at the U.S. National Institute on Aging warn.

As people get older, the researchers explained, they are less able to adapt to high temperatures, like those engulfing much of the nation now. As a result, the heat might exacerbate any medical conditions they have.

In addition, older folks may develop certain health problems that could increase their risk of hyperthermia (when the body overheats), the NIA researchers pointed out in a news release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. These include:

  • Underlying diseases such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Trouble walking or moving around.
  • Dementia or other problems with thinking skills.
  • Overweight or obesity.
  • Dehydration.
  • Age-related changes to the skin, including reduced function in sweat glands.

Medications that older people take may cause dehydration or affect the ability of their heart, blood vessels or sweat glands to respond to the heat, the NIA experts added.

An elderly person's environment can also influence their response to the heat. For instance, not having access to air conditioning or transportation, or overdressing could put them at greater risk for heat-related illnesses involving hyperthermia, including heat fatigue; heat syncope (lightheadedness or fainting in the heat); heat cramps; and heat exhaustion.

When the body's temperature hits 104 degrees Fahrenheit, heat stroke (an advanced form of hyperthermia) sets in, according to background information in the news release. Signs that someone is suffering from heat stroke may include: a strong, rapid pulse; lack of sweating; dry flushed skin; faintness; staggering; and mental status changes, such as confusion, combativeness, disorientation or even coma, the experts noted.

To stay cool and avoid these heat-related illnesses, the NIA researchers cautioned the elderly to pay attention to air pollution alerts. Anyone without fans or air conditioners, they added, should go to public places with air conditioning, such as shopping malls, movie theaters or libraries.

If, however, it is suspected that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness, the NIA advised people to take the following steps:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Move them into air conditioning or another cool place.
  • Urge them to lie down and rest.
  • Remove or loosen tight-fitting or heavy clothing.
  • Encourage them to drink water or juices if they are able to drink, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Apply cold water or cold compresses to their skin.

The hot weather is expected to ease somewhat by the weekend.

Copyright 2012 WNEM (Meredith Corporation.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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