Jacobs School Chair of Emergency Medicine Robert McCormack says guarding against dehydration is key, especially for the elderly and the very young
By the University at Buffalo
Temperatures across the Northeast are on the rise this week, and for the near future there isn’t much relief in sight.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat-related illnesses, while preventable, are responsible for more than 600 deaths in the U.S. each year. At greatest risk are the elderly, young children, and people with some chronic conditions, such as obesity.
“Heat is a risk for all, but especially at the extremes of age,” said Robert F. McCormack, M.D., professor and chair, department of emergency medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. Dehydration is the primary risk.
“Heat exposure can be life-threatening,” he said. “Sweating helps people to shed heat. If someone is hot and stops sweating, gets confused or passes out, it is a medical emergency and an ambulance should be called.”
To help the vulnerable beat oppressive heat and humidity, McCormack, also president of UBMD Emergency Medicine, offers the following tips:
√ Make sure elderly people remain in the shade or in the coolest area of the house or the apartment. Ensure they drink plenty of water and have access to a fan or air conditioning unit.
√ Remember that many medications can put older people at greater risk.
√ Check frequently on elderly family members and friends.
√ Make sure children stay hydrated and that they take breaks from the sun and cool off frequently.
√ Beware of alcohol. It has a dehydrating effect and makes people less aware of the risks and effects of extreme heat.