Killer Heat Is Coming: Are You Prepared?

Killer Heat blog postIs it me, or is it getting hot out there?

Federal health officials said this week that our summers have been getting more intense lately, with more “extreme heat events” causing power outages and an increasing number of heat-related deaths, especially among older adults.

To prepare for this summer’s already climbing temperatures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has introduced a new website on heat, with specific tips for those in the age 65-plus group. Included in the advice: Don’t rely solely on a fan to keep you cool during a heat wave; drink more water than usual; and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.

More than 7,200 people died from heat-related causes from 1999 to 2009, more than two-thirds of them at home, the CDC said in a new report. In 22 percent of the deaths, loss of power from storms was known to be a contributing factor, the report found. Those living alone and those age 65-plus were most at risk.

One bit of good news: Fewer deaths were reported during last year’s extreme heat events – like the windstorm in the mid-Atlantic region that blew out power for eight days and caused 32 deaths – than in previous years. The report noted this was likely due to efforts by local and state agencies to get more people to cooling stations.

The CDC urged local governments to again plan for extreme heat events this summer and help increase public awareness about the health risks of excessive heat exposure.

As CDC researcher Ethel Taylor told NBC News, “Heat is kind of an insidious killer and it’s easy for people not to realize they are at risk.”

Here are more CDC tips for older people dealing with summer’s extreme heat:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. Contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook – it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-related illness, such as muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting.

 

Photo: Horizon International Images Ltd./Alamy