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Taking care of elderly in extreme heat

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Medical professionals and elderly advocates have a warning for older Oklahomans.

There's concern that this summer's extreme heat could be jeopardizing their lives because they're the most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.

EMSA has been on 71 heat-related calls just this past week.

They say it's important to check on older friends and neighbors right now because as we age, our bodies aren't able to recognize just how hot it really is.

EMSA's Colin Roy showed us how to keep someone cool by dipping a rag in ice water.

"Place that on the arms and with a fan blowing just over the body, that's going to help them get rid of some of the heat they may be holding in," he said.

Roy said elderly residents have a harder time adapting to this heat.

He urges people to visit older friends, family and neighbors often to see how they're doing or at least call.

"Call them frequently and check on them," he said. "'Hey, how are you feeling? Have you been drinking enough water?'"

He said, if you pinch the skin on top of your hand, it will retract quickly if you're hydrated; if it doesn't, you might be dehydrated.

Also, certain medications alter the body's ability to circulate blood to get rid of body heat.

"If they're hot to the touch, they're dry and they're not sweating anymore, that's even worse," Roy said. "That's when we're starting to get into the heat stroke symptoms that are life threatening."

AARP volunteer Tewanna Edwards said Oklahoma's summer reminds her of Phoenix.

"As soon as you walk out, it's just like your skin is burning," she said.

  • She said a cool shower is a great way for the elderly to beat the heat.
  • Bottled water should be kept in the fridge or in an ice chest, not at room temperature.
  • Also, if a person on a fixed budget turns off their a/c because they're worried about high electric bills, offer to take them to the mall, library, or anywhere to cool off for a while.

"(Reassure them) that you will bring them home, you won't be gone long and help them in that manner," she said.

Edwards called her utility company and asked to be billed the same amount each month.

Running a fan in a hot room can actually dehydrate a person so EMSA advises running a fan over a cooler of ice to circulate colder air.

LINK: Help Someone Stay Cool During Extreme Heat

LINK: Medications that may increase the risk of heat illness

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