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Heat Wave Threatens Older Americans

Who’s at risk and how to protect yourself

Staying cool

The symptoms of heat-related illness can be slow to develop, “and often the elderly do not realize they are succumbing to the heat,” says CDC epidemiologist Rebecca Noe. Many older people typically don’t drink enough liquids, she adds, which increases their difficulty coping with stifling weather.

Noe encourages friends and family members to check on older neighbors, especially those who live in homes without air conditioning. “People with heat exhaustion will feel faint, dizzy, nauseous and their pulse can be fast and weak. If you take their temperature and it’s above normal, that’s also an indication,” she says.

In Arizona, where daily highs typically soar above 100 degrees, Keller urges older people to drink plenty of cool fluids and eat cold fruit with high water content, like watermelon, cantaloupe and apples. Putting cool cloths under the armpits and around the neck is also helpful for cooling the body quickly.

Even healthy seniors should try to avoid the hottest times of the day, she adds. “Do things early in the morning and take plenty of shade or air-conditioning breaks.

“You need to respect the heat.”

Candy Sagon writes on health issues for the Bulletin.

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