In some parts of the country, heat waves can come on suddenly. The fact that our bodies have not yet become acclimated to the higher temperatures means that sudden heat waves in the spring and early summer can pose an even higher risk than normal of death or serious illness. This is especially true when the heat wave also comes with high humidity.
We are experiencing such a heat wave right now here in Pennsylvania. The temperatures are up in the 90s, and the humidity is so high, it seems as thought you could be able to ring out a stone.
Underestimating the impact of the heat that can feel like it is in the 100s in some places, is the reason many people get sick and die each year during heat waves. Any one of any age can succumb to the heat, although there are risk factors.
People at the greatest risk of heat related illness or death include those who are over the age of 65, since your body may not adapt to heat as well when you get older, infants and young children, and those with existing illnesses or conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or high blood pressure.
Certain medications may also increase your risk of becoming ill from the heat.
There are some precautions that you can take to be prepared for the next heat wave.
Make sure you have a working air conditioning system or can shelter some where with air conditioning. According to the department of health in my own state, air conditioning is the number one protective factor. Local and state agencies often have resources for older Americans.
Have plenty of water on hand. If you go out, bring water with you in case it is not available. Avoid drinks that could actually cause you to lose bodily fluids. These drinks include ones that contain caffeine, a lot of sugar or alcohol.
Try to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day. Schedule exercise and outdoor work to the early morning and evening hours, and make sure to take breaks in the shade.
When you do go out, be prepared with light, loose fitting clothing, a wide brim hat, sunglasses and broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15.