Beat the Health and Stay Safe this Summer
High summertime temperatures can be a threat to your health. In the summer of 1980, a severe heat wave hit the United States. Nearly 1,700 people lost their lives from heat-related illness. Each year, high temperatures put people at risk.
Who’s most at risk for heat-related illness? People who…
- Are over age 50.
- Are very underweight or overweight.
- Live in places without air conditioning or good air circulation.
- Have certain health conditions. These include high blood pressure, and heart, lung or kidney diseases.
- Take certain medications that make it hard for the body to cool itself down. Examples are some diuretics, sedatives and heart and blood pressure medicines.
What health conditions are related to heat? Here’s a list, from less to more serious.
- Heat cramps can be muscle pains or spasms in the arms, legs or stomach. The heart rate stays normal and skin remains cool. They can sometimes be helped by resting in a cool place and drinking fluids. Note: If you’re 65 or older, it’s a good idea to call your doctor if you suspect a heat-related illness.
- Heat exhaustion is caused by too much time or physical activity when it’s hot out. It’s characterized by heavy sweating, paleness, dizziness, headache, nausea and fast breathing. This is a serious health condition that can develop into…
- Heatstroke. Heatstroke is an emergency medical condition that can threaten your life. Symptoms include fainting, a body temperature of 104 degree F. or higher, and disoriented behavior. The skin is dry and flushed with no sweating. People can even have seizures
If you think that you have either heat exhaustion or heat stroke, call 911 for help right away.
What can you do to prevent heat-related illnesses? When it’s hot, make sure you…
- Drink lots of water and other fluids during the day. Drink even before you get thirsty. (Note: Don’t drink more fluids if your doctor has restricted your fluid intake.)
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. They can actually make you lose fluid.
- Dress for the weather. Wear cool, loose-fitting natural fabrics, like cotton. Light colors reflect sun and heat better than dark colors. Wear a wide-brimmed hat for shade.
- Close curtains, shades or blinds. This can help keep your home cool during the hottest part of the day.
- Open windows at night. Get cross-ventilation in your home if possible (unless you have air conditioning).
- Cool off. Spend at least two hours of the hottest parts of the day in a place with air conditioning. Some good choices might be a mall, public library, senior center or a friend’s or family member’s home.
- Avoid outdoor exercise. It’s not safe to get too much activity when it’s hot.
- Watch weather reports. Risks of heat illnesses go up with temperature, humidity and pollution levels.
Medicare Memo: Have Fun in the Sun—Safely
Spring is here, and summer’s right around the corner. That means tending the garden, picnicking outdoors, and playing outside with the grandkids. It also means it’s time to talk about skin cancer.
Skin cancer should be a serious concern for everyone. It’s the most common type of cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year.
Anyone can have skin cancer, but seniors are particularly at risk. As with most other types of cancer, your risk of getting skin cancer goes up as you age. Also, many seniors today were active sunbathers in the 1970s, before the risks of sun exposure were widely known.
Practice Prevention: You and Yours
The good news is that there are lots of ways to have fun outside while playing it safe. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and those you love:
- Avoid the sun in the middle of the day. For most people in North America, the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., even on a cloudy day.
- Wear sunscreen—all year long. Choose one that feels comfortable to you and has an SPF of at least 15. Apply it on all your exposed skin, including the back of your hands and neck. Reapply it after swimming or sweating heavily.
- Wear protective clothing. Look for dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your limbs. A hat with a broad brim and sunglasses are good choices, too.
- Avoid tanning beds. They can give off harmful UV rays that can raise your cancer risk.
- Know your medications. Some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. These include antibiotics, ibuprofen and certain high blood pressure and diabetes medications. Be extra careful if you’re taking one of these.
- Get vitamin D safely. Medical experts are looking into how getting less sun may mean less vitamin D for some people. Talk to your doctor about getting enough vitamin D from what you eat or from supplements.
- Start ‘em young. Most of the safety tips in this list work for your loved ones, too. Take extra care to protect young children in your care, since early exposure can lead to higher risks of cancer later on. Staying in the shade is the best bet for babies under six months, since they can’t wear sunscreen yet and can burn easily in the sun.
Keep Alert: Early Detection is Key
Detecting cancer in its early stages often makes it easier to treat before it gets worse. So make sure you’re doing skin cancer self-exams every month. If you see new moles or growths, or changes in ones you already have, make sure to tell your doctor. You can also check with your doctor to see whether your annual Medicare preventive visit (covered by Medicare Part B) includes a skin cancer check, depending on your risk factors.
–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear
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