Heat waves are often tough to cope with

July 18, 2008 8:50:52 AM PDT
Another heat wave has arrived, and it could be a tough one.

Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, founding director of the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging, says an older person's body is slower to adjust to changes in temperature. In addition, older people can have a diminished thirst reflex that keeps them from drinking adequate amounts of liquid. They may also have safety concerns that keep them behind closed windows without fans or air conditioners.

Children are another vulnerable group. Their bodies warm 3 to 5 times faster than an adult's, according to Dr. Kendell Sprott, of the University of Dentistry and Medicine of New Jersey.

Dr. Sprott says, "If you think its okay to leave a child in a locked, parked car - even for a minute - think again. High body temperature can lead to brain and organ damage. Young children are particularly susceptible because they are less able to regulate their body temperature."

Dr. Sprott added, "If you do leave a child in a hot, parked car and return to find that child asleep, dont assume he or she is taking a nap. Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include confusion and lethargy which means that child could be seriously hurt. Remove that child from the car immediately. If that child is unresponsive, call 911."

Here are some tips for avoiding heat illnesses:

Children: - They dehydrate faster than adults. grape or apple juice diluted with water is a good alternative to sports drinks, which have salt and sugar.
- Never leave a child unattended in a car, even on days that are just "warm."
- "Cracking" windows has little effect on temperature.
- Put a purse or briefcase in back seat as reminder that a child is there.
- Always lock your car to keep children from playing inside.
- At home, keep car keys out of reach and out of sight.
- Check the temperature of car seats and metal buckles before placing children in the seats.

Adults: - Encourage non-caffeinated beverages, and keep them within easy reach.
- Check medications; some can hamper ability to sweat, or can be dehydrating, such as blood pressure medications.

For everyone: - Avoid outdoor activities during peak sun hours, between 10AM and 3PM.