Beating the Heat

Officials urge seniors to stay cool, hydrated this summer

A senior man sits in the heat. With high temperatures hitting the 80s and 90s in the Upper Peninsula this week, officials are urging older adults to stay hydrated and avoid the heat. Heat can have serious health impacts, as Over 600 emergency department visits in Michigan since July 1 have been attributed to heat-related illnesses, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. (Stock photo from PxHere)

MARQUETTE — After a cool spring, a wave of hot temperatures is hitting the Upper Peninsula, with high temperatures in the Marquette area expected to reach the mid-80s today, with a potential for temperatures to reach low 90s Friday.

Beyond high temperatures alone, the humidity is expected to be high as well, reaching as high as 90% in the early morning hours of Friday, making hot temperatures feel even warmer.

For seniors, this is particularly concerning, as older adults can be more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme temperatures and sudden temperature fluctuations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Furthermore, those who have chronic health conditions may have an altered bodily response to heat and prescription medications can impact a person’s ability to sweat and/or regulate their bodily temperature, meaning some may not recognize if they are hot or dehydrated.

With this streak of hot weather occurring in the Upper Peninsula and throughout Michigan, officials are urging residents — especially those over 65 and those with health conditions — to make sure they stay cool.

“It’s important Michiganders stay hydrated and out of the sun as much possible to avoid serious health complications during this hot weather,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, said in a press release. “Young children, older adults and those who are have medical conditions are at increased risk for heat-related illness, so be sure to check frequently on them and others in your community who may need additional assistance.”

Hot weather can cause serious medical problems, with over 600 emergency department admissions for heat-related illnesses including sunburn and sun positing, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration reported in Michigan since July 1, MDHHS officials said.

Headaches, confusion, dizziness, or nausea can all be signs of a heat-related illness and it’s important to go to a doctor or an emergency room if you suspect you may be experiencing a heat-related illness, according to the National Institutes of Health.

However, there are a number of steps that can be taken to help avoid heat-related health complications this summer, officials said.

It’s important to drink lots of cool fluids to keep body temperature in check and prevent dehydration, officials said, but it’s recommended that individuals avoid liquids with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar.

Wearing lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, as well as sunscreen is critical, MDHHS officials said, as a sunburn can impact a person’s ability to cool down.

Officials also recommend limiting outdoor activities to the coolest times of the day and to spend time in air conditioning during peak heat times.

While getting in air conditioning can be key to keeping cool, it can be challenging in the Upper Peninsula, as many residents may not have air conditioners due to the relatively short cooling season in the region. Furthermore, those who do have air conditioning may be hesitant to use it often due to concerns about energy costs.

“If concerned about the cost of running air conditioning, go to a friend’s house that has air conditioning, an area cooling center, the local mall, the senior center, or a movie theater to get out of the heat,” a release from the Michigan Energy Association states.

It’s also important to recognize that regular air conditioner maintenance can make a difference in utility bills.

“An air conditioner’s filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance for the unit to function effectively and efficiently throughout its years of service. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in air conditioning performance while energy use steadily increase,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Cleaning and/or replacing an air conditioner’s filter; vacuuming vents and ensuring they are unblocked; cleaning the air conditioner’s drain line and insulating exposed ductwork can all help the unit run more efficiently, while a programmable thermostat can ensure the most cooling is done in the hottest parts of the day.

Furthermore, closing air vents in unused or unoccupied rooms in the house can help customers save 5 to 10% on cooling-related energy costs, according to the MEA.

It can also help to spend more time on the lower floors, or basement of a home, as these areas will typically be cooler than upper floors.

Keeping curtains closed to keep the sun from warming the home’s interior and using ceiling fans or portable fans to circulate air can also increase energy efficiency, according to the MEA.

In addition to these tips, the MEA recommends singing up for a budget plan with your utility company, as these plans can make utility costs predictable and spread more evenly throughout the year.

According to the MEA, the following resources are available for seniors concerned about their utility bills:

The Michigan Public Service Commission’s customer assistance hotline at 800-292-9555 can help with issues related to utilities.

Call 211 for information and referrals for agencies that can assist with utility payments.

Older adults can get help with utility issues by calling the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at 800-347-5297.

Contact your utility provider for information on programs that allow income-eligible customers to make payments if they receive a shutoff notice and are unable to pay their bill in full.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.