Keeping Seniors Safe in the Texas Summer Heat

This summer may have started out kinder and gentler than last year, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. The heat makes summer a dangerous season for everyone, but seniors are at a higher risk of suffering complications from the heat. Many seniors take medications that could dehydrate them or make them more sensitive to the sun. For seniors who are not as mobile or depend on others to come by to care for them, they may not be able to move themselves to a cooler spot or help themselves if they start feeling heat-sick when they’re by themselves. And they may have trouble recognizing when they are experiencing symptoms of disorders caused by heat before it’s too late. There are two main kinds of heat conditions:

Heat stroke is a very serious heat-related illness. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, nausea, spots before the eyes, ringing in the ears, bright red dry skin, rapid, strong pulse, and a body temperature of more than 103 degrees.

Heat exhaustion is a more mild heat-related illness, but should still absolutely be treated. Symptoms include cool and clammy skin, a body temperature of up to 103 degrees, weak and rapid pulse, and shallow and quiet respirations.

If you notice someone who has these symptom, get to a doctor immediately!

Below are a few ideas and suggestions to help keep older adults cool:

  • wear light colored or loose clothing
  • use sunscreen, even if going outside for just a short period of time
  • wear a hat that is wide-brimmed to protect the face (but isn’t so tight as to prevent ventilation)
  • stay hydrated with water or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks
  • keep a spray bottle with cool water nearby to lightly spritz the face and body
  • a shady spot outdoors may be cooler than inside, so sitting on a covered porch with a portable or ceiling fan may be a good option
  • if you are inside with no AC, stay on the lower floor of your residence (which is typically cooler)
  • mobile seniors should try to spend a few hours each day in a place with A/C: either a mall, library, a movie, or restaurant

Unfortunately, many seniors either cannot afford or don’t have access to air conditioning to combat the severe Texas heat. Below are a few suggestions to help:

Tips to help cool your home:

  1. When it is safe to do so, leave windows open (even at night) on both sides of your house to get a cross-breeze.
  2. Utilize portable fans and ceiling fans to amplify your A/C’s reach, or help substitute when you don’t have one.
  3. Close curtains or shades on sunny windows, or find a way to cover them if they don’t have draperies already.
  4. Clean and replace air filters regularly to maximize your AC and vent systems.

AGE of Central Texas is a community partner in Family Eldercare’s Fan Drive, so we have box fans available for those who are over 55, disabled, or have children under the age of 18 living in their house. They must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($22,340 annual income for one person or $30,260 for a couple), and be able to provide an ID and proof of income. Call us at 512.451.4611 for more information.

For more information on how heat affects the elderly, click here for resources from the CDC.

Tips to Endure Extreme Heat

The extreme heat we’re currently experiencing in Central Texas can be dangerous. Many people don’t realize the limitations of the human body to endure heat. The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department offers the following list of precautions people can take in hot weather to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
• Stay in shaded areas and avoid the sun.
• Wear light clothing and a hat.
• Never leave another person or an animal in a closed, parked vehicle.
• Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, but avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar.
• Take advantage of the cooling power of water. Fill buckets or basins and soak your feet. Wet towels and bandanas can have a cooling effect when placed on the shoulders or head. Take cool showers or baths, and consider using a spray bottle filled with cold water to cool off throughout the day.
• Plan strenuous outdoor activities for early or late in the day when temperatures are lower.
• Take frequent breaks when working outdoors.
• If you are aware of elderly, more vulnerable people in your neighborhood check on them to see if they need additional assistance.
• At the first signs of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), seek a cooler location, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if conditions do not improve