The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


June 28, 2012

Heat hazards: Seniors, kids more at risk during hot weather

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin area is under an onslaught of heat warnings. High temperatures are expected to continue throughout the week, as winds will transport more humidity.

Already, cooling centers have opened at local chapters of the Salvation Army and Red Cross.

Health organizations are releasing heat warnings and advisories for heat-related illnesses.

Most of those advisories state a common caveat: Kids and senior citizens are most susceptible to heat-related problems.

But the warnings are for different reasons.

Kinetic kids

Kids’ bodies are just as able to handle hot conditions as a healthy adult, said Ryan Talken, environmental health supervisor for the Joplin Health Department. But kids may not be familiar with symptoms of heat sickness.

“Kids rely on others to regulate their activity level and the amount of fluids they drink,” Talken said. “They may not know they are thirsty, or they may not slow down.”

That means parents or anyone else watching kids outside should keep a sharper eye on them.

Have water available and make sure kids stay hydrated, Talken said. Kids should also use sunscreen if they are going to play outside.

Susceptible seniors

While kids are more at risk because of attention issues, senior citizens’ ability to handle heat declines with age.

“They aren’t able to compensate for heat stress as younger people are,” Talken said.

According to information from the CDC:

  • Seniors don’t adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
  • Seniors are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that upset normal body responses to heat.
  • Seniors are more likely to take a prescription medication that impairs the body’s ability to regulate temperature or inhibit perspiration.

Talken advises seniors to stay inside during the hottest part of the day and to watch for headaches, nausea, confusion or dizziness.

“Pay attention to those things and slow down,” Talken said. “And make sure to drink plenty of fluids.”

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