DOWNEY - In the many neighborhoods of Downey, you see people walking each morning or late in the afternoon, arms moving in typical cadence - residents out for an easy stroll with their dog or with health and fitness on their mind. With area temperatures rising, CareMore physicians urge exercisers, particularly seniors, to take extra precautions while exercising or working outdoors in hot temperatures and to listen to their body’s signals. These safety measures can help avoid potential life-treating heat illness, dehydration or a trip to the E.R.
Diabetics, seniors and people taking over-the-counter medicines and prescription medicines like antihistamines, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressants should be very cautious. If taking any of these medications, it is best to avoid the heat. Seniors are especially vulnerable; make it a point to check on older friends and relatives several times a day.
To help you maintain your health and physique this summer, Dr. Balu Gahde, regional medical director of CareMore Health Plan, offers simple safety tips for hot weather:
- Exercise early or late, try not to exercise outdoors in the middle of the day, when the sun is the highest and hottest.
- Increase your water intake. Excessive sweating causes your body to lose fluids that need to be replaced. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink wate.
- Wear breathable (cotton), light-colored clothing to reflect the heat
- Exercise on cooler surfaces like grass instead of asphalt.
- Gradually build up your exercise routine over a couple of weeks. This will give your body time to acclimate to the warmer weather.
- Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
- Don’t overdo it. Pay attention to your body and any distress signals it may be sending. If you start feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint, get into shade and rest. Caregivers should know that elderly people can get disoriented and confused, when dehydrated. If this happens, they should seek medical attention.
During sizzling summer months, dehydration is a main health concern. Since you can sweat up to two quarts an hour, you'll need to match the loss by drinking water. Failing to do this, or overexertion can cause your thermostat to short-circuit, slowing circulation and perspiration. The shutdown triggers a rapid ascent in body temperature. Your body can suffer from heat exhaustion which can lead to heatstroke.
"Hydration is crucial," says Dr. Gahde. "Drink lots of liquids before you go out into the hot weather and every 15 minutes or so while in the heat. Sports drinks are especially beneficial because they have added salt, electrolytes and potassium. Drinking just plain water is not sufficient; you need to replace the salt you lose from your body." A word of caution: if you have history of congestive heart failure, too much liquids and salt can aggravate your medical condition. Please consult your physician/medical provider and discuss the amount of fluid intake.
Be sure to call your doctor immediately if you have symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke, or if you observe them on someone else.