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Elderly beating the heat with fans
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Beat the Heat
For more information about donating or receiving a fan, call the Gainesville-Hall Community Service Center at 770-503-3353.

Why elderly are more affected by heat

  • They do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature.
  • They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
  • They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

Heat-related illnesses

Heat stroke: The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat and is unable to cool down. Symptoms include an extremely high body temperature, above 103 degrees; red, hot, and dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; and nausea

Heat exhaustion: Can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate replacement of fluids. Symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, fainting, fast and weak pulse, fast and shallow breathing

How to protect yourself

  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Rest.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • If possible, seek an air-conditioned environment.
  • Wear lightweight clothing.
  • If possible, remain indoors in the heat of the day.
  • Do not engage in strenuous activities.

How to protect elderly relatives and neighbors

  • Visit older adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Encourage them to increase their fluid intake by drinking cool, nonalcoholic beverages regardless of their activity level. If their doctor generally limits the amount of fluid they drink or they are on water pills, they will need to ask their doctor how much they should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Take them to air-conditioned locations if they have transportation problems.

What to do in case of heat stress

  • Call for medical assistance while you begin cooling the affected person.
  • Get the person to a shady area.
  • Cool the person rapidly, using whatever methods you can: a cold bath, sponge bath, shower or spraying them with a water hose. Keep working until the body temperature drops to 101°–102°F
  • Do not give the person alcohol to drink.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

With temperatures climbing to the low 90s Wednesday and a heat index reaching the mid-90s, it appears it is officially that time of year again in Northeast Georgia, when sweltering heat and high humidity are the norm. Until recently, soaring temperatures have been kept at bay thanks to the area’s surplus of steady rain and overcast skies.

The National Weather Service is forecasting the rest of the week to be consistently hot, with mostly sunny days and temperatures in the mid- to upper-80s.

Days of blazing heat and strong rays from the sun bring more than discomfort to those exposed; additionally, the temperatures threaten one’s health and well-being with afflictions like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, also known as sunstroke.

Beat the Heat, a program sponsored by the Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center, assists elderly adults by furnishing them with fans to help them find relief from the hot weather.

“Our seniors, a lot of them don’t have air conditioning, or don’t have the means to circulate the air,” said Merry Howard, Senior Life Center manager. “We try to provide that donation to them. In many cases, they won’t turn their air on if they do have it because they are choosing to purchase food and medication as opposed to running their electricity bills.”

Senior adults are one of the most vulnerable groups to heat-related hazards and ailments, so it is especially important for them to avoid exposure to extreme temperatures.

“Senior citizens are so susceptible to heat-related illnesses, and sometimes they don’t even realize that it is a heat-related illness,” Howard said. “They may just feel tired and exhausted. ... The elderly need to stay hydrated and cool.”

Howard encouraged seniors to take advantage of the senior center during the extreme heat of the summer weather, too.

“Join the senior center, especially in hot times,” she said. “We have air conditioning here. We provide services: lunch, activities, programs and opportunities to fellowship with other senior citizens, and they can stay cool in the summer.”
Howard said the demand for fans this year hasn’t been too high, but she attributed that to the relatively cooler spring weather.

“Last year, we probably gave out around 120 fans,” she said. “It’s just now really turned hot; so next week, I may have an onslaught of people. To date, we’ve served around 50 people.”

The center received a large amount of donations last year that have carried over into the supply for this year, but Howard said more donations are always needed and encouraged.

Seniors who need a fan, as well as those interested in donating, should call the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center at 770-503-3353.

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