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Hoosiers Melting in Heat Wave: Health Risks Rise

July 12, 2011

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The heat wave over much of Indiana has sparked an advisory from the National Weather Service, reminding residents about health risks of high heat for the very young and those over 65.

Leah Schrock, health education coordinator with the Area 2 Agency on Aging in South Bend, says people should be sure to check on older friends and relatives, since they often don't realize the heat is affecting their health, whether as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or life-threatening heat stroke.

"In the heat, like 90 degrees and all, fans don't necessarily work. And so, one thing that they can do is put cool water on themselves, because that will definitely help relieve the heat."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists red, hot skin with no sweating, dizziness and confusion as signs of heat stroke, a condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Schrock says heart disease, high blood pressure and some medications also make older people more vulnerable during a heat wave. While getting to an air-conditioned place is the obvious best thing to do to prevent heat emergencies, Schrock says it's common for elders to lack transportation, or to keep their air conditioning off because of the cost.

Laura Boyle, senior vice president for client services at CICOA Aging and In-Home Solutions in Indianapolis, says their meals-on-wheels drivers are on alert for signs of heat stress.

"They know if the person's alone, or if they have air conditioning, or what their condition is, and if they notice that they are not doing well in the heat, then they would let us know."

CICOA offers tips on keeping cool, and finding public air-conditioned places, on its website, cicoa.org

A CDC fact sheet on extreme heat is at www.bt.cdc.gov

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - IN