Health Watch -- Keep Your Cool

Health Watch is a Public Service of the   Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Summer's hot weather affects some people more than others.

As days grow warmer, youngsters will be heading outside to enjoy the sunshine. But older adults may be more vulnerable to the heat of summertime. Their existing medical problems, medications they take and other factors leave them at risk for heat-related illnesses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 300 people - many of them senior adults - die each year from heat related illnesses.

One of the best ways to prevent heat-related problems is to stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment. If you don't have air conditioning, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas suggest opening windows that are on opposite walls to create cross-ventilation. Use a fan to circulate air, and keep lights turned off so they don't add heat to the room. On really hot days when a fan isn't enough, cool off in air-conditioned libraries, shopping malls or senior centers.

Even with air conditioning, there are things you can do to make summer easier to bear. Dr. Kevan Namazi, chairman of gerontology at UT Southwestern, suggests drinking plenty of liquids. Older adults often don't drink enough because the thirst sensation diminishes with age. That leaves them more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Avoid alcohol and beverages loaded with sugar or caffeine. Plain old water is the best. Eat cool foods like fruit and salads. Take cool baths or showers.