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Too Hot To Handle: Smart Steps to Avoid Heatstroke

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A friend’s untimely death in 2014 has always bothered me. As I wrote in this post on grief, Cheryl (“Snake” to her friends) was 68, healthy and fit. In her twenties she led a women’s expedition over the Himalayas; at 40, she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail solo, from Mexico to Canada. So how did a simple day hike in Arizona end her life?

A few weeks ago I got a shocking answer: it was likely heatstroke. I ran into one of her former coworkers, who told me the rescue team had found urine in Snake’s water bottle. That meant she had run out of water, and knew to recycle her urine so she’d have liquid in her system. Obviously, by then she was in crisis.

Did she underestimate the day’s weather? While it was October, it was also Arizona, notorious for blistering temperatures even in the fall. And Snake’s level of fitness may have unwittingly contributed to her downfall: like many active people in their sixties, she did not perceive herself as a “senior” who needed to pay special attention to her health.reverse mortgage news

Subtle changes can signal grave danger

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “People aged 65 years or older are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature.” And they’re not talking about a huge temperature shift, either. A Harvard School of Public Health study found a 1.8-degree Fahrenheit increase could cause heat stress, especially in elders who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, or heart or lung disease.

In this era of climate change, when we’re experiencing record-breaking heat waves, it’s critical that your reverse mortgage clients, prospects, and other elders in your sphere understand the risks of heatstroke, and the importance of paying attention to how it can sneak up on them, so they don’t become like the proverbial frog in a pot of water on that’s being slowly heated on the stove.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms of heatstroke:

  • High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher.
  • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, or seizures.
  • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. Heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise makes skin feel moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Flushed, reddened skin.
  • Rapid, shallow breathing.
  • Racing heart rate. Pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on the heart to help cool the body. Chest pain is also possible.
  • Headache, dizziness, fainting.

Take preventive action

I remember helping an older woman on a sweltering summer day a few years ago, as she valiantly disregarded the heat in an effort to get home. These are useful reminders for a senior to post on the refrigerator (or for an LO to email HECM prospects this month).

  • Check the Heat Index. High humidity impairs the body’s ability to cool itself through perspiration. A senior can find the current heat index on any weather website. It’s also usually announced on local TV and radio weather reports during exceptionally warm periods.
  • Stay Indoors Midday. There’s a reason Noel Coward famously wrote, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” Older people, especially, should avoid going out midday in times of extreme heat. Do errands early in the morning, when the temperature tends to be cooler. Or, if possible, shop online.
  • Drink Plenty of Liquids! Many medications are diuretic, meaning they create frequent urination. At the same time, a senior’s thirst is usually less acute than that of younger people, so they may not drink as much water as they should — or physical limitations may make it harder to get up and get a drink when they are thirsty. Dehydration is the root of many heat-related health problems. The key is to drink plenty of water, even when you’re not thirsty. (Thirst indicates someone is already water-deficient.) Steer clear of coffee or alcohol in the heat, as these drinks actually dehydrate you.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing. Light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and a wide-brimmed lightweight hat are the best attire for sizzling summer weather.
  • Take it Easy. Avoid exercise and any other strenuous activity, particularly outdoors (such as mowing the lawn), when it’s very hot.
  • Find Air Conditioned Places. Ideally, a senior will have A/C in their home. Seniors whose houses aren’t air-conditioned may want to spend extremely hot days at the senior center, library, mall or movie theatre, all of which should be air conditioned. Be sure to bring a sweater for the A/C! During heat waves, many cities also set up “cooling centers”: air-conditioned public places people can visit to get out of the heat. Seniors without convenient access or transportation to an air-conditioned place can take a cool bath or shower.
  • Know the Warning Signs of Heat-related Illness. If you experience any of the symptoms outlined above, seek medical help immediately. It might be a life-saving move.

Go to the Park

Finally, this month might be the perfect time for someone 62+ to purchase a Senior Parks Pass and enjoy our country’s many lakes, mountains, pine trees, and other cooling natural remedies. Do it soon, though: the price of a National Parks Senior Pass increases from $10 to $80 on August 28, 2017.

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Editor in Chief: HECMWorld.com
 
As a prominent commentator and Editor in Chief at HECMWorld.com, Shannon Hicks has played a pivotal role in reshaping the conversation around reverse mortgages. His unique perspectives and deep understanding of the industry have not only educated countless readers but has also contributed to introducing practical strategies utilizing housing wealth with a reverse mortgage.
 
Shannon’s journey into the world of reverse mortgages began in 2002 as an originator and his prior work in the financial services industry. Shannon has been covering reverse mortgage news stories since 2008 when he launched the podcast HECMWorld Weekly. Later, in 2010 he began producing the weekly video series The Industry Leader Update and Friday’s Food for Thought.
 
Readers wishing to submit stories or interview requests can reach our team at: info@hecmworld.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Relevant news story: https://www.yahoo.com/news/body-found-grand-canyon-believed-texas-woman-152323501.html

    Heatstroke can affect anyone, of any age, especially if they run out of water.

    This 38-year-old mother went missing Tuesday and died while hiking the Grand Canyon in triple digit temperatures. She was seeking help and water, and apparently got lost. Her two children were later found safe.

    Seniors: Hydrate, keep a water bottle with you always (I do) and let people know where you’re going and when you expect to return. It may save your life.


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