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Irene is retired, she loves to work in her garden. Because she has always spent hours outside, she thinks the heat and humidity of Midwestern summers don’t bother her. Then last year an unusual heat wave hit her area. Every day the temperature was over 100° F, and the humidity was at least 90%. Five days into the heat wave, her daughter Kim came over because Irene sounded confused on the phone. Kim found her mom passed out on the kitchen floor. The ambulance came quickly when called, but Irene almost died. She had heat stroke, the most serious form of hyperthermia.
Almost every summer there is a deadly heat wave in some part of the country. Too much heat is not safe for anyone. It is even riskier if you are older or if you have health problems. It is important to get relief from the heat quickly. If not, you might begin to feel confused or faint. Your heart could become stressed, and maybe stop beating.
Your body is always working to keep a balance between how much heat it makes and how much it loses. Your brain is the thermostat. It sends and receives signals to and from parts of your body that affect temperature, such as the spinal cord, muscles, blood vessels, skin, and glands that make substances known as hormones. Too much heat causes sweating. When the sweat dries from your skin, the surface of your body cools and your temperature goes down.
Being hot for too long can cause many illnesses, all grouped under the name hyperthermia (hy-per-ther-mee-uh):
The Signs of Heat Stroke
Hundresds of people die from hyperthermia each year during very hot weather. Most are over 50 years old. The temperature outside or inside does not have to hit 100° F for you to be at risk for a heat-related illness. Health problems that put you at risk include:
Things you can do to lower your risk of heat-related illness:
Headache, confusion, dizziness, or nausea when you’re in a hot place or during hot weathercould be a sign of a heat-related illness. Go to the doctor or an emergency room to find out if you need tgreatment. To keep heat-related illnesses from becoming a dangerous heat stroke, remember to:
To find your local area agency on aging look in the telephone book or contact:
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging 1112 Sixteenth Street, NWSuite 100Washington, DC 20036 202-296-8130 www.n4a.org
Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116 www.eldercare.gov
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)National Energy Assitance Referral Hotline (NEAR)1-866-674-6327www.ncat.org
For more information on health and aging, contact:National Institute on Aging Information CenterP.O. Box 8057Gaithersburg, MD 20898-80571-800-222-22251-800-222-4225 (TTY)
To order publications (in English or Spanish) or sign up for e-mail alerts, visitwww.niapublications.org.
The National Institute on Aging website is www.nia.nih.gov.
Visit NIHSeniorHealth.gov (www.nihseniorhealth.gov), a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. The simple-to-use website features popular health topics for older adults. It has large type and a "talking" function that reads the text out loud.
National Institute on AgingU. S. Department of Health and Human ServicesNational Institutes of HealthJuly 2001 (Reprinted August 2005)
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