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Ted loves to spend long hours working in his garden. He’s worked outside all of his life; first on the family farm helping with the crops, and then in his own garden working to grow food for his family. His flower garden is the envy of the neighborhood. Ted often has said the heat and humidity typical to Kentucky doesn’t bother him.
Unfortunately, though, as Ted has aged in years and developed physical health problems, the recent hot, dry weather and higher humidity levels finally have taken their toll. During a recent afternoon telephone conversation with his son, Ted sounded very confused and his son was concerned.
His son found Ted passed out on the floor. The ambulance came quickly when called, but Ted almost died. He was diagnosed with heat stroke, the most serious form of hyperthermia.
As temperatures begin to climb to 95 and 100-degrees and hover there, older adults and those with chronic health conditions have to take extra precautions. It also is important to remember a person, young or old, does not have to be directly outdoors in the sun for a heat-related illness to happen.
The rising heat and humidity can bring on severe heat-related illnesses or hyperthermia. The two most common forms of hyperthermia are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Of the two, heat strokes especially are dangerous and require immediate medical attention.
Heat exhaustion can result when too much time is spent in a very warm environment, resulting in excessive sweating without adequate fluid and electrolyte (salt and minerals) replacement. This can occur either indoors or outdoors, with or without any physical activity.
Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature; a person’s body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating process stops, and the body is unable to cool down. A person’s body temperature may rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher in 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can result from overexposure to direct sunlight, with or without physical activity, or to very high indoor temperatures. It can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given within a timely period.
A person’s overall heath and lifestyle may add to their chance of suffering a heat-related illness. According to National Institute of Aging, some health factors, which may increase risk of heat-related illnesses, include:
The conditions in which a person lives also may increase their risk.
Everyone, especially older adults and those with chronic illnesses, should take precautions during these long, hot days of summer.
Contact Senior Life columnist Monica Ruehling at email@example.com.