| Thu, Jul 05, 2012 @ 09:00 AM

Medicare Memo: Beat the Heat and Stay Safe this Summer

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Medicare Memo: Beat the Health and Stay Safe this SummerHigh summertime temperatures can be a threat to your health. In the summer of 1980, a severe heat wave hit the United States. Nearly 1,700 people lost their lives from heat-related illness. Each year, high temperatures put people at risk.  

Who’s most at risk for heat-related illness? People who…

  • Are over age 50.

  • Are very underweight or overweight.

  • Live in places without air conditioning or good air circulation.

  • Have certain health conditions. These include high blood pressure, and heart, lung or kidney diseases.

  • Take certain medications that make it hard for the body to cool itself down. Examples are some diuretics, sedatives and heart and blood pressure medicines.

What health conditions are related to heat? Here’s a list, from less to more serious.

  • Heat cramps can be muscle pains or spasms in the arms, legs or stomach. The heart rate stays normal and skin remains cool. They can sometimes be helped by resting in a cool place and drinking fluids. Note: If you’re 65 or older, it’s a good idea to call your doctor if you suspect a heat-related illness.

  • Heat exhaustion is caused by too much time or physical activity when it’s hot out. It’s characterized by heavy sweating, paleness, dizziness, headache, nausea and fast breathing. This is a serious health condition that can develop into…

  • Heatstroke. Heatstroke is an emergency medical condition that can threaten your life. Symptoms include fainting, a body temperature of 104 degree F. or higher, and disoriented behavior. The skin is dry and flushed with no sweating. People can even have seizures

If you think that you have either heat exhaustion or heat stroke, call 911 for help right away.

What can you do to prevent heat-related illnesses? When it’s hot, make sure you…

  1. Drink lots of water and other fluids during the day. Drink even before you get thirsty. (Note: Don’t drink more fluids if your doctor has restricted your fluid intake.)

  2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. They can actually make you lose fluid.

  3. Dress for the weather. Wear cool, loose-fitting natural fabrics, like cotton. Light colors reflect sun and heat better than dark colors. Wear a wide-brimmed hat for shade.

  4. Close curtains, shades or blinds. This can help keep your home cool during the hottest part of the day.

  5. Open windows at night. Get cross-ventilation in your home if possible (unless you have air conditioning).

  6. Cool off. Spend at least two hours of the hottest parts of the day in a place with air conditioning. Some good choices might be a mall, public library, senior center or a friend’s or family member’s home.

  7. Avoid outdoor exercise. It’s not safe to get too much activity when it’s hot.

  8. Watch weather reports. Risks of heat illnesses go up with temperature, humidity and pollution levels.

If you have questions about your risk of heat-related illness, be sure to talk to your doctor. Keeping safe in the heat is a good topic to discuss during your annual Medicare preventive visit (covered by Medicare Part B). This is especially important if you take medications or have fluid intake restrictions for a health condition.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources:

Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov)

Heat Illness – National Institutes of Health (NIH) (nih.gov)

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