Heat Illness Can Be Deadly For Seniors Without Power

Sep 14, 2017
Originally published on September 15, 2017 7:50 am

For the millions of people who are still without power across Florida, heat illness can be a concern.  

The old and the very young are most susceptible to heat-related health issues and the death of 8 residents at a nursing home facility in Hollywood that lost power after Hurricane Ivan illustrates the danger.

But it’s not only residents of nursing homes who are at risk, said Dr. David Wein, chief of emergency medicine at Tampa General Hospital.

He says if you live by an elderly neighbor who lost power, go check on them.

“Remind them to drink,” said Wein, who is also medical director of emergency medicine at the University of South Florida. “If you have power and you are nearby, get them somewhere where there is air conditioning or even just get them out of the house to a public place that has air conditioning.”

He says, even moving to a spot in the shade outside can help.

Wein said your body will tell you when its overheating or dehydrating. Other symptoms to look for include dizziness, confusion and a lack of sweating.

There are ways to reverse the symptoms, he said.

“Part of it is water, part of it is staying hydrated and part of it is just somewhere that is a cool space -- ideally air conditioning,” Wein said. “But if you can't get to air conditioning a lot of times just making sure that windows are open in a space because a breeze can help cool you off.”

Older people and young babies are more at risk because they may not be able to articulate what they are feeling or move themselves to a cooler place, Wein said.

“Their ability for their body to regulate their temperature as easily isn’t there so they may not notice it until their temperature is very out of range and their body doesn’t have the ability to recover from that difference.”

Dozens of the state's senior centers still lacked electricity on Thursday in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and several facilities were forced to evacuate.

Stepped-up safety checks were conducted around the state after the eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which shocked Florida's top leaders as they surveyed destruction from the punishing storm.

Several nursing homes have been evacuated because of a lack of power or air conditioning, while utility workers raced help dozens of others still lacking electricity as of Thursday. Homebound seniors found help from charities, churches and authorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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