by Susan Mikula Campbell
Summer has arrived in Western New York with plenty of heat and humidity.
Senior citizens should take special care this time of year as the risk for heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, increases with age, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Dr. Bianca Belli talked about "Keeping Cool for Summer" on Tuesday at the luncheon program presented by Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center at Crestwood Commons in Wheatfield.
The most serious heat-related illness is heat stroke, when the body is unable to control its temperature, she told the seniors. Symptoms include a temperature above 103 degrees; red, hot, dry skin; rapid pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness and dehydration.
One senior asked what was meant by dry skin in a heat stroke. "Your body is so overheated, you stop sweating," Belli explained.
Another heat-related illness is heat exhaustion, which can develop after several days of high temperatures, with symptoms such as sweating, paleness, weakness, dizziness, fainting and fast, shallow breathing, she said.
Seniors, especially, need to drink more fluids when temperatures soar. "This does not include alcohol," cautioned Belli, adding that sugary beverages and coffee also can be dehydrating.
Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. is the best time to seek a cool spot if your home is not air-conditioned. Try wandering around the mall or relaxing at the library, she advised.
Fans primarily help circulate air, so a cool shower or bath might be better for heat relief. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of a cool (not icy, which can cause cramping) beverage every hour. Outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF greater than 15, Belli said.
Belli told seniors not to stint on air conditioning in their homes when outside temperatures are high.
Crestwood Patio Homes resident Jean Ann Borgatti offered some senior wisdom on that matter, advising, "The best thing is to set it and leave it alone. I set mine at 72 and leave it, winter or summer."
Asked what should be done if they think someone is having a heat stroke, Belli told the seniors to first call 911. If possible, get the person to a cool, shady area and try to bring the body temperature down. This could include applying ice packs to areas where blood vessels are close to the skin, immersing them in cool water or even spraying them with a garden hose (let the sun-heated water out of the hose first).
Belli, 30, is a doctor of osteopathy. The Chicago native has completed the first year of Memorial's three-year residency program and is working at the Summit Healthplex in Wheatfield.
•The next Memorial luncheon presentation at Crestwood will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 23. Speaker will be Dr. Nicholas Violante, orthopedic surgeon, who will talk about the new total joint replacement program at Memorial that works with a patient from pre-surgery through post-surgery care.
•Memorial will offer a free concert at Schoellkopf Park from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, July 1, featuring rhythm and blues by the Soul Committee. Patrick Bradley, Memorial's director of marketing and public relations, told the seniors that the park outside the hospital was first established in 1913-14 and has been restored to new beauty. "Bring a lawn chair with you; we're going to party!" he said.