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Hot Summer Days Can Make Sick People Sicker

Extreme heat can affect anyone, but you don't have to become a victim.

Medication and Heat Stroke Risk continued...

There are many other factors too. People with low incomes living in cities are usually the hardest hit by heat waves. Older people are especially at risk, partially because they simply can't sense temperature as accurately as they used to, Knochel says.

Many of these risk factors -- medical, social, and economic -- can merge together. For instance, imagine an older woman who lives in a city on a fixed income, doesn't have air-conditioning (or is too worried about the costs to turn it on), and takes medications for heart disease and high blood pressure. She is at a much higher risk of developing heat stroke than the average person. But she -- and her family -- may have no idea.

Enjoying the Summer Safely

Although excess heat can certainly cause problems, we're not trying to dissuade people from getting outside and enjoying themselves during the summer. Getting outside and getting some physical activity is good for just about everybody -- with medical conditions or not.

But if you're at higher risk of having problems from the heat because of a medical condition, just take some extra precautions. Remember, you need to get out of the heat sooner than the people around you.

On the whole, someone with a medical condition should follow the same precautions as anyone else on a hot day. To prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Don't go outside during the hottest times of the day.
  • Spend time in a cool place. If you don't have air conditioning, go somewhere that does, such as a friend's home, a mall, or a library.
  • Drink extra water (unless your doctor tells you otherwise), and avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine.
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton clothes.
  • Pay attention to weather reports and try to plan ahead for hot days.

Also, remember to check on older relatives or friends who might be at higher risk of heat-related illness because of medical conditions. Make sure that they're staying cool on hot days.

The fact is, as Knochel says, any kind of chronic health condition can lower the threshold for developing heat-related illness. He suggests talking to your health care provider to find out if you're at higher risk and how to protect yourself. You may just need to take a few extra precautions to have a healthy and happy summer.

Reviewed on July 06, 2007

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