(Salisbury, MD) Once again our area is forecasted to experience a prolonged period of extreme heat as temperatures are predicted to be in the mid to upper 90’s with heat indices over 100 degrees beginning Sunday through midweek. Health officials in Wicomico County are reminding residents to take care of each other, stay cool, and well hydrated. Older adults, young children, and those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a mental illness are most vulnerable to extreme heat. The heat leads to hundreds of deaths among seniors nationwide, each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Maryland, most of the heat-related deaths have been those age 65 and older with an underlying health condition such as heart disease. “During extreme heat, the best way to stay cool and safe is be in an air-conditioned environment. Be sure to check on family, older friends, and neighbors. People are often unaware they are in trouble until it's too late”, says Lori Brewster, Health Officer for the health department.
What makes the elderly so vulnerable? For one, their body is unable to adapt quickly to extreme heat. Their blood vessels become stiffer and take longer to dilate, delaying blood to the skin and sweating to cool off. Many older adults also have decreased sensation, and it takes them longer to realize they are thirsty. Some medications, such as diuretics, lower blood pressure by expelling fluids which dehydrates the body. Over-the-counter allergy and sinus medications also can cause dehydration. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids even if you aren’t thirsty and to talk to your doctor about any medications you take.
“I urge family members and neighbors to check on each other, especially those older adults, to make sure their homes are cool enough and they are eating and drinking adequately.” Brewster said. ”One of the most important things for seniors is to ensure their homes are cool. If your home is not air-conditioned, go to any public facility such as the mall or library to seek relief.”
For tips on how to stay cool, go to www.wicomicohealth.org or www.cdc.gov/diasters/extremeheat