Health Watch -- Warming Weather

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.

It may only be May, but it's time to start thinking about warmer weather, especially in some parts of the country.

Before summer heat strikes, it's important for older adults to be prepared. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say seniors are especially vulnerable to high temperatures because of health problems they already have, because of medications they're taking and because they may not drink enough fluids - the thirst sensation tends to weaken with age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 300 people die every year from heat-related illnesses.

UT Southwestern gerontologists say the best way to keep safe and cool in the summer heat is to use air conditioning. Many heat-related deaths occur during hot spells in parts of the country where air conditioning isn't widely used.

If air conditioning isn't available, there are some other ways to keep cool. Open windows on two sides of a room to create cross-ventilation and use a fan to keep air circulating. Keep lights off to help lower the room temperature.

Drink plenty of liquids and avoid sugary drinks, alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Plain old water is best. You can also eat fruits and salads to give you fluids and keep you cool.

Take cool showers or baths during the day to cool you off. On really hot days, visit libraries, shopping malls or senior centers that have air conditioning.


May 2004