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5 Things All Home Care Providers Need to Know About the Dangers of the Summer Heat

Posted on February 27, 2016 at 2:50 PM

Summer is once again upon us in Northeast Ohio. As exciting as it most certainly is, it can also be a bit dangerous. As a caregiver, there are several things you should know in order to help your client or love on enjoy the beautiful summer weather with peace of mind.

1. Risks of Heat Exhaustion

Older adults are at a much higher risk to develop heat exhaustion and heat stroke. As we age, our body begins to lose its ability to regulate temperature. Therefore, we are much more reactive to hot and cold ambient temperatures. Additionally, illness, certain medication, as well as other factors, can exacerbate the situation. As a caregiver, it is important to evaluate your clients’ general health and medications to gain a sense of whether or not an increased risk exists.

2. Heat Exhaustion Vs. Heat Stroke

All caregivers need to know the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion because it can be the difference between life and death. While both are closely related, heat stoke is the more severe of the two. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include: fatigue, nausea, headaches, confusion and even fainting. Symptoms of heat stroke can include: nausea, headaches, dry skin, rapid heart rate, decreased sweating and urination, blood in the urine and even convulsions. It is important to note that there is not necessarily a transition from one to the next. Heat stoke can have a sudden onset. Heat stroke requires medical care immediately.

3. Understanding Heat Index

Simply put, the heat index tells us how hot it will feel to us when we are outside. It is a single temperature that combines humidity and the temperature outside. This is particularly important because it gives you another indication of how the weather can make you prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Sweating is one function your body uses to disperse heat from within. In order to work properly your body’s sweat needs to evaporate from your skin. Although it may seem counter-intelligent, a higher heat index means your sweat cannot evaporate as fast due to the increased humidity. It is typically recommended that we take precautions to keep cool for ourselves at about a heat index of 91F. However, as caregivers of older adults, we should know our clients’ individual risk factors and consider taking precautions even when the heat index is below 91F

4. Wear Appropriate Clothing

Be mindful of what your client is wearing. You want to pay attention to the color, the fit and even the material. Light colored clothing is always best because dark colored clothing absorbs the light, thereby making us hotter. With regard to the fit and material, loose and light is key. It is easier to remove layers while you are out, than it is to completely change. Wear several layers of light colored clothing, and then remove as needed.

5. Drink Plenty of Liquids

This may seem like a no-brainer to some caregivers. However, you would be surprised how easy it is to forget to drink, especially if you and your client do not “feel” thirsty. ER visits peak during summer months and heat exhaustion and heat stroke is a main culprit. Secondary to those conditions is dehydration. Consider it a mean cousin. It is in the family of heat stroke and heat exhaustion and it even exacerbates those conditions. Although we have all probably heard the recommendation to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, many studies recommend to drink about 0.5 ounces of water per pound of your body weight each day to avoid dehydration. Keep in mind, you may need to increase water intake depending on the heat index and the activity.

This article is meant to be used for informational purposes only. It should not be used as medical advice. If you suspect either yourself or a client has heat stroke, dehydration or heat exhaustion you should consult a physician immediately.


Categories: Health and Safety

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