Seniors need special attention in this heat

The highest temperature in Philadelphia this year was 99 degrees on June 9, but today is supposed to surpass that, said Patrick O’Hara, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J.

For the next few days, there will be hot temperatures with very little rain or clouds.

Today might reach 100 degrees in certain areas, he said.  Children and the elderly have the hardest time dealing with the heat.  At the beginning of next week, temperatures will pull a little farther away from that 100 degree mark.

Every year, 20 or so deaths in Philadelphia are heat related, said Chris Gallagher, director of the help line for Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.

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The help line gives tips on how to keep cool, and callers can to speak to nurses. If the nurse thinks the caller is in danger, he or she will send out a mobile team to go into the person’s home, if they live in the city, to take vital signs and to give suggestions on how to better deal with heat in their homes.

One common hot weather mistake is that some people use fans and close all windows and doors. This creates a convection oven effect.

Also, some people don’t want to run the air conditioning in the daytime because it costs too much or it’s bad for their arthritis. Gallagher said running it at lower temperatures or just for a few hours so that the room doesn’t continue to heat up would be a better solution.

The PCA also said that it is important for the elderly to take the heat seriously especially when it is two to three consecutive days, said Connie Jones, nurse supervisor in long-term care access for PCA.

Those who have chronic diseases or are taking antidepressants need to be careful because some medications may inhibit the body’s natural coolant, sweating, she said.

In heat like this it’s important to be aware if you feel lightheaded or nauseous. Friends, family and neighbors should take caution if their elderly loved ones appear to be confused. To help with this, the elderly should drink water and sports drinks as often as possible and stay away from alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

Also, outdoor activities should be done in the early morning or late evening, Jones said.

Jones added, that used incorrectly, fans may not be effective.

“It may just be bringing more heat into the home,” she said. “Taking a cold shower or a cold bath may be more helpful.”

Going to an air conditioned place, such as a library or senior center, for a few hours will also be helpful. Some have come to Center in the Park to look for relief, said Courtney White, the social services supervisor at the center.

PECO recently donated about 25 fans to CIP to give to those that don’t have a fan or air conditioner. On Wednesday, White said, a man came to the center to take advantage of this because his house was getting too hot and he wasn’t able to purchase a fan.

Though she doesn’t know if there is an increase of visitors to the center trying to avoid the heat, she does know that people have the heat on their minds.

“The second they come in here they say ‘Oh. It feels good in here,’” she said. “They are definitely looking for ways to get out of the heat.

If homebound senior citizens need a fan, they should contact CIP for help.

Heat tips from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging

Know when to ask for help. Heat stress symptoms can include loss of energy, loss of appetite, lightheadedness, heavy sweating, thirst and nausea.
Call 911 if there is lack of sweat, combative behavior, hot, dry, flushed skin, body temperature of 105 degrees or higher, rapid heartbeat or breathing and throbbing headache.
Check on elderly and homebound neighbors.
Fan should not be used inside a home with windows closed. This circulates hot air and creates a convection oven effect.
Drink lots of water. Even if you’re not thirsty, drink a glass of cold water every 15 to 20 minutes.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can cause your body to lose water.
Stay cool. Turn on the air conditioning or go somewhere it’s air conditioned.
Keep curtains or blinds closed during daylight hours to block out the sun.
Take a cool shower or bath, which can be more effective at cooling than a fan.
Dress cool by wearing loose, light-colored clothing., and wear a wide-brimmed hat outside.
Avoid the sun, but if outside, apply sunblock with SPF 15 or greater.
Plan outdoor activities in the early morning or evenings, when the sun is not as strong and temperatures are cooler.
Pace yourself. REst often in cool or shaded areas.
Eat lightly. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals. Instead, add cool foods like watermelon, cantaloupe and Jell-O to your diet.
Call the PCA Heatline at 215-765-9040 for more tips.

Pet heat tips

As for pets, they should be kept inside and out of the sun as much as possible. Pets can also sunburn, according to a press release by the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

The society also said to have blankets and towels for pets to lie on, and that people should walk dogs on grass because the asphalt can burn the pads on their feet. Pets should be cooled down gradually, such as by wrapping legs and feet with wet towels or spraying rubbing alcohol onto the pads of their feet.

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