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Heatstroke and Other Heat-Related Conditions to Watch Out For this Summer

Posted on June 10, 2022 by Larry Johnson

Heatstroke can lead to serious medical issues. A quality Medicare Advantage plan can help you hit the road to recovery. Give our licensed agents a call today at (800) 950-0608 to find a Medicare Advantage plan in your area that works for you.

Extreme Heat Can Put Your Health in Serious Jeopardy

Summertime is upon us once again. The days get longer, there’s plenty of sunshine to enjoy, and you’ll want to get out and be active. With all that sunshine, though, comes plenty of sweltering heat. As we all know, extreme heat can cause major issues for everyone. It hits seniors especially hard, especially those with existing health issues.

Quality senior care means teaching and practicing proper heat safety during the hottest times of the year. Whether you’re a senior yourself or you take care of loved ones who have reached the golden years, it’s important to know how to keep yourself – and them – safe when temperatures reach extreme highs.

Heat-related conditions can vary from minor inconveniences to severe illnesses, some of which can create lasting complications. Some of the major heat-related conditions to try and avoid this time of the year include:

  • Heatstroke
  • Heat Edema
  • Heat Cramps
  • Heat Exhaustion

In this article, we’re going to talk a little more about each condition, and we’ll give you some key heat safety tips to help avoid facing them this summer.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is the most serious of any of the heat-related conditions listed above. It occurs when you are exposed to high temperatures for too long, or if you’ve overexerted yourself physically in high temperatures. Your body temperature rising to or above 104 F puts you at serious risk for suffering heatstroke.

This is a condition that requires urgent emergency treatment. If left untreated, heatstroke can cause serious damage to your:

  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Muscles

Some of the most common signs and symptoms that you or a loved one are suffering from heatstroke include:

  • High body temperature – core temperature of 104 F or higher
  • Skin feels hot and dry to the touch, and you’ve stopped sweating
  • Altered mental state or behavior
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headache

If you feel like you’re experiencing heatstroke, don’t wait to seek medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency services number right away. Taking immediate action can help you avoid the long-term effects of heatstroke.

Heat Edema

One condition that seniors are more likely to face in the hot summer months is heat edema. If you sit or stand for too long in a hot environment, your feet, ankles, and hands may swell. This heat-related swelling is heat edema.

When it gets too hot, your blood vessels dilate. This shifts fluid into your hands, feet, and ankles, causing them to swell rapidly. Fortunately, heat edema is fairly easy to manage. You can calm or completely resolve heat edema in the following ways:

  • Elevating the affected body part
  • Avoiding the heat whenever you can
  • Staying active through mild or moderate exercise
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating a proper healthy diet and avoiding excess salt
  • Wearing supportive clothes such as compression socks, sleeves, or tights
  • Avoiding being sedentary

In some cases, you may not be able to avoid experiencing heat edema. Seniors who have medical conditions that affect circulation experience it frequently. So do those who eat a lot of salty foods, or those who visit hotter places from a cooler area. While this condition isn’t the most dangerous, it’s still best to either try to avoid it altogether or keep it managed to avoid serious complications.

Heat Exhaustion

Part of practicing good heat safety or summer safety is to take proper precautions to avoid any heat-related illness. This includes avoiding heat exhaustion. Quality senior care in the summer means keeping yourself or your loved ones as cool as possible so that heat exhaustion doesn’t become a concern.

Heatstroke and heat exhaustion share many similarities as far as signs and symptoms. Heat exhaustion, however, is not as severe as heatstroke. We must note, though, that if you feel like you’re experiencing heat exhaustion and do not get out of the heat, it can quickly become heatstroke.

Some of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Profuse sweating
  • A fast, weak heartbeat
  • Muscle cramps
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Tiredness or weakness

Heat exhaustion can easily be treated without any type of expert medical intervention. All you need to do to treat heat exhaustion is to:

  • Get yourself or an affected loved one into a cool environment
  • Place a damp cloth on your forehead or the forehead of an affected loved one
  • Have them drink cold drinks to stay hydrated*

*When experiencing heat exhaustion, it’s best to avoid caffeinated beverages and/or sugary drinks. You or your loved one should drink cold water or sports drinks to cool the body and avoid dehydration.

Heat Cramps

Have you ever experienced painful muscle spasms after being out in the heat and sweating a lot all day? If so, you’ve felt the painful grip of heat cramps. Heat cramps strike after you’ve been sweating all day and much of the salt in your muscles has left your body.

Your muscles need salt and moisture in order to properly – and painlessly – function. If you’re sweating a lot, your muscles are being drained of both. This leads to extremely painful cramps, which can also be a sign that you’re being affected by heat exhaustion as well.

Heat cramps are usually easy to treat. Just move to a cool area, drink some water or sports drinks, and relax until the cramps stop. Sometimes, gently stretching or massaging the affected area can be a major help.

If your heat cramps aren’t stopping after an hour, they could be a sign of something more serious. You should call a healthcare provider to see what you should do if the cramps refuse to cease.

Will Medicare Cover Any of the Medical Expenses I Incur As A Result of Heat-Related Conditions?

If you have Original Medicare (Part A & Part B), certain medical expenses that arise as a result of heat-related conditions may be covered. For instance, if you or a loved one refuses to initially get treatment for heatstroke or long-lasting heat cramps and they develop rhabdomyolysis, that’s going to require a hospital visit and may lead to a brief stay until the issue is resolved. Medicare Part A will likely cover that hospital stay and Part B may cover certain treatments.

Let’s say, however, that you sometimes suffer from heat edema as a result of a long-standing medical condition and you need compression socks. Original Medicare will not cover the cost of those compression socks. If you have a Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage plan, then it may help cover the cost of those compression socks. If you take a fluid pill to help reduce the amount of fluid that builds up in your body, a standalone Part D Prescription Drug plan or a Part D plan included in a qualifying Part C plan will likely help cover that medication.

Proper Senior Care Means Protecting Yourself or Your Loved Ones From Extreme Heat

Sweltering summertime heat can be more than an inconvenience for you as a senior, or for your older loved ones. Not practicing proper heat safety precautions as a part of any senior care routine can lead to serious medical issues down the road, especially if you or a loved one suffer from heatstroke or heat cramps.

Keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the dangerous effects of summer heat. Practice our summer safety and heat safety tips, and you’ll be able to enjoy the great outdoors with little to no trouble at all!

About the Author

Larry Johnson

Larry is a content writer with several years of experience in creating informative content for a variety of industries on topics that matter. He is a 2009 graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

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