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Seniors and Hot Weather

Senior citizens need to take special precautions to avoid overheating in hot weather.

The hot, humid weather is hard on everyone, but it is especially hard on senior citizens.  Dr. Amber Barnhart, professor of family and community medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains why hot weather can be harmful to the elderly.

SOUND BITE:   “It is harder for senior citizens to stay cool in the hot weather compared to other age groups. And mainly that has to do with the sensation of heat.  They cannot tell when it is hotter than they think it is.  They don’t perceive heat the same way as the younger folks do.”

Dr. Barnhart says to stay cool, seniors can apply cold wash cloths on their forehead and neck, stay in the shade, and use fans and air conditioning.  If their home is not air conditioned, they should go to a mall, a cooling center, or a friend or family member’s home that has air conditioning.  She says some health conditions cause even more concern in the hot weather.

SOUND BITE:    “The possible health conditions that seniors may have that makes them handle heat even worse than usual is any heart condition, lung condition or kidney condition.  Medications that patients take for those conditions can also lead to dehydration and when it is hot out. We all have to work hard not to become dehydrated.”

Dr. Barnhart reminds family members and friends to check on seniors several times a day during heat waves to make sure they are okay.  If someone has symptoms of overheating such as dizziness, a feeling that their heart is racing, or shortness of breath, they should be taken quickly to a primary care physician or hospital emergency department.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.