Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Heat Wave: How to Deal

With this past weekend’s major power outage leaving millions of Americans without electricity in, for some areas, the hottest part of the year, we thought this would be a good opportunity to remind everyone about how to keep cool and more importantly, how to keep residents cool.

Every year in the United States, over 200 people die of health complications caused by high heat and humidity—the majority of these victims being age 50 or older. Older adults are not able to cool down as well as younger adults, and when temperatures are extremely high, may not feel as hot or thirsty when they are actually dehydrated.

Heart disease and diabetes are common in older adults, making it more difficult to cope with excessive heat. Drugs such as water pills, allergy and sinus medications, and medicines for depression and nerve problems can also interfere with the body’s natural cooling system.

Here are some useful tips – thanks to the Care Providers of Minnesota - for keeping safe and cool this summer:

Being Outdoors: Wear protection. Whether it’s wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, or sunscreen, shielding yourself as much as you can from the sun’s powerful rays while outside is essential. Drink frequent fluids, and try to stay in the shade as much possible. If you can, wait until off-peak sun hours to conduct outside activities.

Pests: Protect yourself from ants, bees, and flies. Severe allergic reaction to bee stings are easily identifiable by swelling of the throat or tongue, constricted breathing, and sudden out breaking of hives.

Food and Water: Food-borne illnesses are especially dangerous for the elderly and are most prevalent in hot water. Review food temperatures and holding times. In addition, studies have shown that a significant percentage of older adults are at risk for dehydration. Make sure that you drink water frequently without fail.

Additional tips and reminders for providers:
  1. Check residents’ medications for which ones may potentially pose a problem in hot weather.
  2. In case of an allergic reaction to stings, be ready to respond immediately with emergency treatment (check your supply of EPI pens for expiration dates and availability).
  3. Have systems in place for frequent replenishing of bedside water, encourage frequent drinking of liquids, and educate your residents about the dangers of dehydration.
  4. Federal regulations require nursing facilities initially certified after October 1, 1990 to maintain a temperature range of 71°- 81°F in resident areas.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has helpful documents regarding heat prevention here:

So, enjoy the summer with your residents. But stay cool and stay safe!

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