They say “make hay while the sun shines” for a reason — but too much sun and summer heat present risks for people, particularly the very young, very old, members of low-income households and those with chronic medical conditions.
Senior center directors in Whitman and Hanson remind elders of the importance of taking care to stay in a cool place and drink enough water, with more hot, humid weather were forecast. The towns’ senior centers are good resources for such an escape.
“I think it’s the perfect place for a cooling center,” Whitman Senior Center Director Barbara Garvey said. “People come in to relax and be cool. ”
Town Administrator Frank Lynam said Monday morning that he would be discussing whether the Whitman Senior Center needed to extend hours into Saturday to offer that resource.
Fire Chief Timothy Grenno said he is monitoring the forecast and heat-related EMS calls this week, but as of press time, there was no plan to open a cooling center over the weekend despite a forecast for 90-degree weather, because temperatures have been cooling at night. In the meantime, anyone experiencing heat-related emergencies should call 911 and “if we need to transport them to a cooling center, then we can open one,” Grenno said Tuesday.
If weather conditions require it, the Council on Aging could be opened on the weekend, Grenno said.
“If we need some place on Thursday or Friday, we’ll open the great hall at Town Hall,” he said. Notification will be posted on the town and website if a cooling center is opened.
“It definitely would be up to the fire chief,” Garvey said. “Normally we’re not here on the weekend. We’ve not had to deal with it on a weekend just yet.”
Overall, Garvey said many of her center’s clients tend to stay home when the heat is on, although they do have some who visit to sit in the AC for a “cool start” to their day.
“Pretty much everybody has air-conditioning now and, if they don’t, then we stress that they should,” she said. “The Fire Department would help [seniors] with installing an air conditioner, if need be.”
In Hanson, Senior Center Director Mary Collins reminded seniors that the 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. hours may be extended during heat waves. She also urged, in the center newsletter, that residents check in on aging neighbors to ensure they drink enough water and that fans and air conditioners are being used when necessary.
“If you need to escape from the heat and humidity, come and join us,” Collins said. “Along with planned activities, we offer a great place to meet friends, have lunch, or enjoy a book.”
When the temperature climbs above 90°F, older adults and people with chronic medical conditions need to take precautions. So check the outside temperature on summer days. If it’s above 90°, older people should keep in mind the following tips from Old Colony Elder Services:
• Stay out of the sun if possible. If possible, wait to go out until the sun starts to set or until early the next morning. Adjusting when you go outside could mean a difference of several degrees.
• Air conditioning is your friend. Spend as much time as possible in air conditioned spaces. If you don’t have an air conditioner, go somewhere that is air-conditioned. Read a book at the library, walk around in indoor malls, watch that new movie at the theater, or meet your friends at the senior center. (Note: The federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps adults 65 and older who have limited incomes cover the cost of air conditioners and utility bills. To reach your state’s LIHEAP, call 1-866-674-6327.)
• Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of cool water, clear juices, and other liquids that don’t contain alcohol or caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you (dry you out).
• Dress appropriately. Whenever you can, try wearing loose, light-colored clothes (dark-colored clothes absorb heat). Top it off with a lightweight, broad-brimmed hat and you are dressing like a pro! These simple changes will help you both stay cool and avoid sunburn.
• Did someone say sunburn? Use broad spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
• Cool down! Take tepid (not too cold or too hot) showers, baths, or sponge baths when you’re feeling warm. Don’t have the time? Then wet washcloths or towels with cool water and put them on your wrists, ankles, armpits, and neck.
Watch the kids
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds the caution that the very young are also sensitive to the effects of extreme heat and rely on other people to keep them cool and hydrated. Never leave a child — or your pet, for that matter — in a parked car, even if the windows are open. Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and seek medical care immediately if your child has symptoms of symptoms of heat-related illness.
While people who work outdoors are familiar with the need and methods to acclimatize themselves to warmer conditions, there are times when they, too, need to stop and seek a cool environment. The CDC recommends these workers take the following steps, if they do not already, when working during severe heat conditions:
• Drink from two to four cups of water every hour while working. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
• Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar.
• Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package.
• Ask if tasks can be scheduled for earlier or later in the day to avoid midday heat.
• Wear a brimmed hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
• Spend time in air-conditioned buildings during breaks and after work.
• Encourage co-workers to take breaks to cool off and drink water.
• Seek medical care immediately if you or a co-worker has symptoms of heat-related illness.