Eight deaths in Philadelphia are being linked to the heatwave. The numbers underscore why doctors give the same advice every time the outdoors start resembling an oven.
Dr Gregory Bush, head geriatrician for Virtua Health in New Jersey, says he repeats the mantra each summer.
“I would like to drive home the message that seniors should try to understand that their bodies aren’t what they used to be and what they should do in hot weather is to hydrate, they should try to find air conditioning be at the mall or a senior center and if and if they are not able to find air conditioning open the windows and turn fans on in their homes,” said Bush.
But some seniors mistakenly think they should keep the windows shut and a fan on. Bush says that turns apartments into convection ovens and he says older people can’t cool their bodies as well.
“It all stems from the fact that as one grows older one’s body isn’t able to adjust to the environment as well,” said Bush. “They don’t sweat as efficiently and sweat is a way of cooling the body off. They tend not to drink as much as younger people and obviously you need a good fluid capacity to be able to generate sweat and stay hydrated. As you grow older you also don’t realize that you are thirsty like you do when you are younger, so that sensation goes away.”
Bush says it’s common for word of heat deaths to trickle in even after the weather breaks.
“It’s because a cumulative effect of the heat over time,” he said. “Every day people lose circulating volume. As the heatwave progresses and the people lose more blood volume, their body becomes more and more unable to compensate for that and what we see if the consequences for that is a lack of profusion or blood flow to the brain or heart which leads to bad things including death.”