Are You at Risk for a Heat-Related Illness?Posted by Medicare Made Clear
A heat-related illness can be life threatening and needs to be taken seriously. During hot weather, being outside for even a short amount of time can cause a serious heat-related illness. The higher the heat index, which is a measurement of how hot you feel when the relative humidity and air temperature are combined, the higher the risk of a heat-related illness.
It’s important to know the symptoms of a heat-related illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Call for immediate medical assistance if you see any of these signs. You may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency.
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and not enough fluids. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.
If you see any of these signs, cool the person immediately. Seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, get worse, last longer than one hour, or if heart problems or high blood pressure are involved.
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms—usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs—that may occur with strenuous activity. If heat cramps do not go away in one hour, or if you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention.
Who’s more likely to get a Heat-Related Illness?
Although anyone can suffer from a heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others, including:
- infants and young children
- people aged 65 or older
- people who are very underweight or overweight
- people who have a mental illness
- those who are physically ill, especially with heart or lung disease or high blood pressure
The best defense is prevention. Here are a few tips that may help prevent a heat-related illness:
- Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun. If you don’t have air conditioning, consider cooling off in a public building such as a library, movie theater or shopping mall.
- Eat light and regular meals.
- Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.1
- Avoid drinks with caffeine and limit alcoholic beverages.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
- Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
Keeping safe in the heat is a good topic to discuss during your annual Medicare Wellness Visit (covered by Medicare Part B). Be sure to talk to your doctor about your risk of heat-related illness.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or 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.
Extreme Heat: Ready.gov explains how to deal with extreme heat
Medicare Part B Coverage: MedicareMadeClear.com
Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov)
1If you have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease; are on a fluid-restricted diet; or have a problem with fluid retention, you should talk with a doctor before increasing liquid intake.