The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report that showed that there are an average of 658 deaths in the United States per year resulting from exposure to extreme heat. This number is greater than the total deaths from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and lightning combined! For this reason all people, and especially senior citizens, should prepare for extreme heat conditions before they arrive this summer. Extreme heat affects everyone, but the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions are especially at risk. High body temperature can lead to brain damage or even death for individuals whose body is unable to cool itself down in hot weather.
In the study, 69% of deaths occurred at home. Of that 69%, 91% of homes did not have any air conditioning and most of those who died were living alone. Luckily, here in the northwest we do not usually suffer spells of extreme heat or cold. The greatest area of risk is in states such as Texas, California, and Arizona. However, it is always important to be prepared for the chance of high temperatures no matter where you live. Across the nation, heat related deaths are most prevalent among those individuals age 65 and over.
Fortunately, easy common-sense steps can be the difference between life and death during the summer. Heat related illnesses and death can be avoided by staying cool, hydrated, and informed. If you hear that the temperatures are expected to rise or remain high for a number of days, consider staying with family if your own home is not equipped with air conditioning. Also, remember to drink plenty of water when the weather is warm to avoid dehydration.
The CDC is now offering new resources including a new website to help prepare for extreme heat conditions. The resources not only provide prevention information, but also information about the devastating impact that extreme heat exposure can have on daily life. Access information at http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/