Stay hydrated and mindful of the summer heat

Sip a frosty lemonade to stay cool on a hot summer day in Florida.

Staying hydrated is some of the best advice offered by physicians as seniors battle the summer heat.

“The elderly deserve to enjoy the summer season, to enjoy parks, gardens and beaches, driving, those who do gardening or take pets out and go golfing,” said Dr. Manuel Jain, who practices geriatric medicine in Central Florida. “At the same time, it puts them at risk because of what they are. Age is not an illness, but sometimes it is an impediment to what they want to do and a lot of restrictions are put on them. They should do what they want to do, but should note the risks involved.”

Seniors should be aware of their exposure to extreme temperatures.

“The brain can’t adjust like a young person,” Jain said. “When cold, they (elderly) are already too cold or there is a delay in feeling that cold. So, they take a sweater to a party outside when it is 90 degrees. The body can be too hot to sweat or to cool down. So, they don’t perspire that much.”

The summer heat is dangerous to seniors and the elderly because it could lead to heat stroke, a condition that can be fatal, said Dr. Theophilus Sai, chief medical officer Humana, Inc. for Central Florida and assistant professor of medicine at the University of South Florida.

“Heat stroke is a medical emergency that needs to be treated quickly,” Sai said. “It is a medical condition that occurs when a person’s body gets too hot. This typically occurs when any person exercises in very hot weather and humidity without drinking enough water or other hydrating fluids. Heat stroke also can affect people not exercising, especially the elderly or anyone with health problems.”

“Elderly hyperthermia can occur when they are not doing anything but sitting and get a 104-degree temperature and become dehydrated,” Jain said.

In heat stroke, the skin is dry, not perspiring, with the heat leading to sleepiness and death, he said.

“Chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and small strokes affect the body’s ability to control temperature,” Sai said. “Severe arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease can physically limit an individual’s ability to remove themselves from an area of excessive temperature or to getting fluids. Certain medications affect it as water pills (diuretics). Beta blockers slow the heat down and could affect a response.  Some medications can affect the ability of the sweat glands to produce sweat in response to heat as in antihistamines, some antidepressants and sleeping pills.”

Be safe and familiarize yourself with the signs of heat stroke: Body temperature of 104 degrees or higher (40 degrees Celsius or higher); brain/mental symptoms of confusion or inability to think clearly, headaches, decreased alertness, hallucinations, sleepiness or drowsiness, passing out or fainting; cardiac symptoms of fast heartbeat and skipped heartbeat; fast or labored breathing; vomiting or diarrhea, skin redness and warmth and cramping or weakness of muscles.