“HEAT WAVE! Burning in my heart,” sings Martha and the Vandellas. That’s certainly what everyone is calling these past few weeks in Chicago with temperatures close to triple digits and the tropical-level humidity raising the heat index drastically. There’s no mistaking if it is spring or summer anymore, summer has arrived with a vengeance and seems to be making up for lost time. We are all doing our best to keep cool by finding a parking spot under a tree or eating inside a restaurant as opposed to on the patio.

What most of us are not aware of, is that summer heat claims more than 1,000 lives each year in the United States; more than the icy winters or the severe storms. Over 40% of heat-related deaths each year occur with people over 65 years of age. This is due mainly to the fact that as you age your body holds less water, from 80% in early adulthood to 60% as a senior. The brain also can’t sense temperature change as easily, resulting in the inability to recognize thirst, leading to dehydration. What’s worse, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, seizures and death. Besides the stifling heat, a contributing factor could be the medicines many older adults take. Diuretics for high blood pressure can increase urination and some medications for Parkinson’s disease, insomnia, prostate conditions and even Benadryl can obstruct sweating and raise the body temperature. The tipping point can easily be reached if diarrhea and vomiting enter the picture. Significant amounts of water can be lost and are often hard to replace if one is feeling too nauseated to tolerate liquids.

So just how do we survive this heat wave and avoid dehydration? Furthermore, how do we know if we’ve become dehydrated and how do we go about treating it?

Preventing Dehydration & Heat Exhaustion

Recognize the Symptoms of Dehydration & Heat Exhaustion

Treating Dehydration & Heat Exhaustion

More than 600 people died in their homes from heat exposure in the Chicago heat wave of 1995. Chicago officials are urging residents to stay in an air-conditioned home, the library, theater or mall. As part of the Keep Cool Illinois campaign, the Governor has made over 120 state facilities available as cooling centers to the public open 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday through Friday. A full list of the centers can be viewed at http://www2.illinois.gov/keepcool/pages/coolingcenters.aspx or visit KeepCool.Illinois.gov for more tips on how to beat the heat.

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living

Want to learn more?

Get in touch today!