TEXARKANA –The onset of hot weather can mean an increase in heat-related illness, especially among senior adults and other vulnerable members of the population.
In early May, temperatures in Texarkana shot up from the 70s to the low 90s, with heat indexes of over 100 degrees in some instances. The city even broke a record for hottest temperature on that date since 1899.
And of course, the hottest part of summer is not even here yet.
Dr. Matt Young, chief medical officer of the Texarkana Emergency Center & Hospital, said it's important to take precautions when performing physical activities outdoors. Even just daily exercise in the heat can be hazardous if someone is not acclimated to it.
Indoor exercise is often safest for seniors during summer months.
Wanda McCollum, 84, of Texarkana, has been taking daily walks outdoors but recently started walking in Central Mall to stay cooler during the May heat wave.
"This was the first day I walked indoors this year," she said. "I'm just glad I am still able to do it.
Mall walking is popular for exercise. There are also classes at local senior centers or community centers that can help seniors get a good workout.
The Texarkana Texas Parks and Recreation Collins Senior Center offers armchair aerobics several mornings a week along with line dancing classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Tai chi on Fridays.
Young also recommends adjusting the time that you go outside to early-morning or late-evening hours, staying hydrated, letting someone know when you're outside and wearing loose, light-colored clothing that doesn't attract heat.
There are three stages of heat-related illness – heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Heat cramps occur when someone has a lack of body fluids and electrolytes while outside in the heat. This can progress to heat exhaustion, which includes symptoms like nausea, weakness, dizziness and fatigue.
"At that point, you definitely need to get out of the heat, get to a cool spot and even remove the clothes that you have sweat in to replace with cooler clothes," Young said. "Get a fan on yourself with some cool mist to help evaporate some of that heat, and re hydrate with water or some type of sports drink that has minimal sugar in it.
A heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness, and it occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool itself down.
"It can be life-threatening and deadly," Young said. "If that occurs, you definitely need to call 911. But before 911 gets there, try to remove the person from the heat, cool them down and get in some liquids if they're conscious."