What Heat Really Does To Your Body

Especially those (that be me) over 50| Hot Flash, by Barbara Bishop

Is it hot enough for you? It is for me. Too damn hot. And, if you happen to be 50 years old or older, it can be downright dangerous. I fall into that category. I consulted WebMD about the dangers of high heat. Here’s what I found out, other than sweating my ass off:

Heat Exhaustion

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It happens in extreme heat when your body can’t get cool enough and sweats away too much water and salt. You get pale and clammy, and your temperature often goes over 100 degrees. You also may be tired, weak, lightheaded, and nauseated, and have a headache. if you ignore it, it could lead to heatstroke, which is an emergency. Get to a cool shaded area, lie down, and drink something with salt and sugar. Sip water if that’s all you have.

It happened to me once, when I was on riding the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle roaring down the Arizona desert highway at 112 degrees. I was so dry that after I had some water, I immediately started profusely sweating; my body’s way of cooling me off. Freaky.

Heatstroke

This is heat at its most dangerous. You can’t control your body temperature, which can go above 104 degrees. Your skin gets warm and dry. You might get confused or agitated, and have a fast pulse, nausea, and a headache. Call 911 right away. Left untreated, it may cause seizures, coma, and can be life-threatening. Get to a cool area, sip something and pack ice under your arms and between your legs.

Just recently, there were some seniors living in L.A. with no air conditioning that died. And, there were several mail delivery people that passed out because of the heat. They might want to change their delivery motto. The mail can wait a day or a few hours.

Dehydration

When it’s very hot, you can sweat away too much fluid, along with essential minerals like sodium and potassium. You may be thirsty and pee less than usual, and your mouth and tongue might feel dry. You could even feel dizzy, lightheaded, and confused. Head for a cool place and drink something balanced with salt and sugar (such as an oral rehydration solution). Serious cases need emergency care, including fluids you get through an IV.

Exercising in the heat can lead to dehydration if you’re not drinking enough water. (That’s enough to keep me away from exercising). But there’s always the gym, which is climate controlled. No excuses!

Heat Edema

Heat can cause your fingers, toes, or ankles to swell and make your skin feel tight. It’s not serious and usually goes away when you cool down and elevate your legs. Talk to your doctor if it causes pain, keeps happening, or doesn’t get better. It sucks when you can’t fit into your cute new shoes right before a hot date.

General Precautions

When a heat wave hits:

• Drink lots of water, even if you’re not thirsty. (check)

• Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate you. (Oops! Not check.)

• Eat lighter meals, more often. (check)

• Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. (Black is my go to color. I will rethink that.)

• Check on loved ones who live alone or don’t have air conditioning.

• Stay inside as much as possible and avoid outdoor chores. (I do this even when it’s not hot outside!)

• Never leave a child or pet alone in a car, even if it’s not that hot outside. (The worst thing anyone can do. I will break the glass to save a child or pet)

Stay cool and stay safe, Santa Monica!

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