GLEN ROSE – Monday may have marked the first official day of summer, but the mercury has already begun to climb. And climb. And climb.
With triple digit temperatures in the very near future for Somervell County, as well as most portions of the southern United States, a refresher course on proper care for those who often cannot care for themselves may very well mean the difference in life or death.
According to studies conducted by the ASPCA and SYNERGY Home Health Care, our elder counterparts and furry companions are often the most at-risk for heat exhaustion, stroke, paralysis and numerous other severe health risks.
Fur-real about heat
“Dogs and cats can become dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of water when it's hot outdoors,” said Alison Jimenez, ASPCA director of media and communications. “[…] Make sure your pets have a shady place to escape the sun if they are outside, be careful not to over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it's extremely hot. Pet owners should never leave their animals unattended in a parked vehicle.
“Parked cars, even with windows open, become very hot in a short amount of time, and this can lead to heatstroke or death. On an 85-degree day, it takes only 10 minutes for the inside of your car to reach 102 degrees, even with the windows cracked an inch or two; and in 30 minutes, the inside of a locked car can reach 120 degrees”
In the cases of pets, the risks can be a two-for-one when faced with extreme heat warns the ASPCA, because, while old dogs may not be able to learn new tricks, little Rufus can absolutely fall into both the elderly and pet categories simultaneously.
“Elderly, overweight, and pets with heart or lung diseases are more susceptible to heatstroke,” Jimenez added. “Pets with short muzzles like pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats become overheated because they cannot effectively pant. These pets should be kept in air conditioning to stay cool.
“The symptoms of overheating in pets can include an increased heart rate, drooling, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, mild weakness, seizures and an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.”
Seen their fair share of summer heat
It often seems like news articles related to an elderly member of community dying from heat-related issues are filed every year. Yet every year, those same headlines reappear and the lessons seem to be never learned.
According to a 2015 University of Chicago Medical Center study, approximately 40 percent of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. occur among citizens 65 years of age and older.
Combine that statistic with a rising heat index and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimation that 80-86 percent of seniors regularly take medication for chronic illnesses, which in turn makes them “more susceptible to heat-related injuries and illnesses,” and there is a bad combination brewing.
The CDCP reports that seniors are more prone to “heat stroke and heat-related stress because their bodies can’t adjust to sudden changes in temperature. Seniors who take certain prescription medications are more susceptible to heat-related injuries and illnesses.”
“We strongly urge families to consult with their doctor or pharmacist regarding the potential impact of heat on any medications,” says Carla Sutter, director of operations at SYNERGY HomeCare, a Dallas-based company that services retirement homes in the surrounding counties. “We checked with physicians to find out what types of effects heat and medications can have on seniors.”
Those physicians, according to Sutter, reported the following:
• Antidepressants and antihistamines act on an area of the brain that controls the skin’s ability to make sweat. Sweating is the body’s natural cooling system. If a person can’t sweat, they are at risk for overheating.
• Beta-blockers reduce the ability of the heart and lungs to adapt to stresses, including hot weather. This also increases a person’s likelihood of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Amphetamines can raise body temperature.
• Diuretics act on kidneys and encourage fluid loss. This can quickly lead to dehydration in hot weather.
• Sedatives can reduce a person’s awareness of physical discomfort which means symptoms of heat stress may be ignored.
"it is important to monitor residents, especially geriatrics, during the hotter weather because they often do not realize the detrimental effects it can have on their health," -Delynn Culp, L.V.N at Cherokee Rose, said. "We provide water, juice, tea, popsicles and other types of fluids at all times. We strongly encourage each resident to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to help prevent dehydration."
Weather Underground predicts temperatures for Somervell County to remain in the upper 90’s for the next 10 days with a high of 98 degrees on Monday, June 27. The heat index for all 10 days is expected to surpass the 100-degree plateau.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith