4 things to keep in mind to avoid heat-related illnesses during Birmingham summers

Red Mountain
Hiking and doing some yoga along the trails at Red Mountain Park . Photo courtesy of Red Mountain Park

Looks like we won’t see any relief in the hot, summer days any time soon, and with the humidity levels rising, the heat index only makes matters worse. Especially during this time of the year you need to make sure that you and your senior friends and family are keeping cool and taking precautions to get relief from the dog days of summer.  

If you are a caregiver or senior adult, or you yourself are not sure how to avoid heat-related illnesses, then keep these 4 things in mind when it comes to the summer heat.

Bham Now Heat Illness

Pack Two Coolers
  1. Food poisoning increases in adults over 65

According to the AARP adults over 65 have weakened immune systems, and their ability to fight off food-related illnesses diminishes. Make sure if you’re serving foods in an outside setting —such as a barbecue or picnic—that you keep the food safe to avoid contamination.

Pack your cold food items and keep them at 40 degrees. It’s always good to have two coolers: one for food and one for beverages. According to the Israel Medical Center in Boston, you want to pack raw meat items in the bottom of the cooler and then place other items on top. It also is recommended that you only take out the cold food items when you’re ready to serve them.

United Way of Central Alabama
Meals on Wheels delivers healthy meals, even during summer. Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama
Check On Your Friends, Neighbors
  1. Heat exhaustion becomes more prevalent in older adults

The body’s internal cooling systems do not work as well in older adults, making them more prone to heat-related illnesses. Keep a check on your older friends and family during the hot summer days. Some of the warning sides of heat exhaustion are feeling dizzy, clammy skin or light-headedness. If someone suffers from these symptoms, they should seek shade immediately and rehydrate with cool water, according to AARP Alabama.

They also recommend pouring cool water on feet and wrists to lower body temperature more quickly. Also dehydration is a common problem for people over 50 because the kidneys lose some precision in regulating the body’s water supply. So drinking more liquids is critical.

Bham Now Heat Illness

Drink Water, Eat Fruits And Veggies

The Institute of Medicine recommends that you drink plenty of water and eat fruits and vegetables because they contain at least 80 percent of water.  Women especially should drink at least 11 cups of water to stay hydrated. 

Bham Now Heat Illnesses

  1. Heat cramps are no fun. Avoid them!

Heat cramps, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, are muscle pains or spasmsusually in the abdomen, arms or legsthat may occur in association with strenuous activity. People who sweat a lot during strenuous activity are prone to heat cramps. To relieve them, apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage them. You should sip water every 15 minutes to an hour to relieve heat cramps.

Bham Now Heat Illnesses
Eating fruits, veggies and staying hydrated goes a long way. Photo courtesy of Pepper Place Market
  1. Heat stroke is the most serious of heat-related illnesses

Heat strokes are the most serious and potentially deadliest of all heat-related illnesses if they are not treated.  The Alabama Department of Public Health wants you to know these warning signs and seek immediate medical attention.

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees)
  • Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

Heat strokes are life threatening and the victim of a heat stroke needs emergency attention, here what you should do:

  • Get the person to a shady area, cool rapidly in a tub of cool water, place in a cool shower, spray with cool water from a garden hose, splash with cool water, or, if the humidity is low, place in a cool, wet sheet and fan vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the person’s body temperature drops to 101 to 102 degrees F.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call a hospital emergency room for further instructions.

Keep in mind that a person suffering from a heat stroke may be unconscious or unresponsive and cannot drink anything. Never, ever give a person suffering from a heat-related illness alcohol.


Bham Now Heat Illness
Photo courtesy of AARP

TAKE precautions and be safe!

The Alabama Department of Public Health outlines the following precautions to help you stay safe during the summer heat:

  • Drink more fluids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Find activities to do  or stay in air-conditioned places
  • Protect yourself and skin from the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat, loose fitting clothing, light-colored clothing and wear SPF 15 or higher sunscreen.
  • Never leave pets or people in a locked car
  • Check on people 65 and older because they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

There’s a lot of summer left, and we want it to be a safe one for everyone!

Kara Kennedy
Kara Kennedy
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