Staying Cool

sunshineMost heat-induced deaths occurred in places where residents had no air conditioning or inadequate ventilation. In at least one case, a victim had chosen not to run her air conditioning in order to save money. In Southern Illinois, a victim had a fan but reportedly did not use it.

The following concerns are often expressed by older people; here are some solutions that could help save lives.

Concern- I can't afford the high electrical bills.

Solution- Ask for help! Pride is no reason to succumb to heat-related illnesses. Funding is sometimes available to help with cooling bills for low-income households. Call the statewide toll-free number at 1.800.252.8643 for more information.

Concern- The utility companies told us to stop using air conditioning because of the danger of a power outage.

Solution- The elderly, children, and those who are sick or overweight are susceptible to the heat and should not turn off their air conditioning. As little as a few hours a day in an air-conditioned room significantly cuts down on the number of heat-related illnesses, according to the Red Cross.

Concern- Having an electric fan turned on continuously could cause my house to catch on fire.

Solution- According to a local fire department spokesperson, a properly working fan in good condition is less likely to cause a fire than is careless cigarette smoking. For safety, use a fan that is "UL" rated, has a good cord that is not frayed, and has no dust on the motor. Don't use an extension cord with the fan and don't overload the electrical outlets. If the fan gets too hot, turn it off in the cooler early morning or late evening for a while. In addition, it's important to have a working smoke detector in the house. Make sure it has good batteries and change them twice per year.

Concern- I close all my doors and windows because I'm afraid of being robbed.

Solution- Fear of crime is normal, but if you don't have air conditioning and with all the doors and windows shut, the chance of having heat-related illness is far greater than being a victim of crime. Perhaps a solution can be to open an attic window during the day to let in fresh air. You can purchase or have window stops made that allow your windows to be open wide enough to let in fresh air but not wide enough for someone to break into your home.

Concern- I don't know what I can do to keep cool.

Solution- Drink liquids, especially water. Avoid alcohol, coffee, and colas. Slow down and stay indoors. Keep the shades drawn and blinds closed. If you don't have air conditioning, keep a couple of windows open. Take cool baths or showers and wipe your skin with cool towels. Eat small, light meals.

Concern- I checked on a family member and, although she said she was all right, I'm still worried about her health.

Solution- Know the signs of heat-related illness even if someone says they are all right. The signs are cool, moist, pale or flushed skin or hot, red skin. Heavy sweating, headaches, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue are signs. In addition, a rapid, weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing can be signs of distress.

Concern- What should I do if the heat overcomes someone?

Solution- Call 9-1-1 if you or anyone you know needs medical attention. If it's not a life-threatening situation, get the person to a cooler place and have them rest in a comfortable position. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, such as towels or sheets and slowly give them cool water to drink. Immerse the victim in a cool bath, or wrap wet sheets around the body. Watch for signals of breathing problems. If the victim refuses water, is vomiting, or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give them anything to eat or drink and call 911.

Most important of all is to STAY COOL!

For more information, or to find out where you can get a free box fan, call your local senior center or use the link below to Contact the Egyptian AAA.

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