Q: I'm worried about my grandmother, who lives alone. The heat has been so dreadful that I'm afraid she will get sick if she goes out to run errands or see friends. How can I help keep her safe? — Sally J., Lawrence, Kansas
A: Good questions. If you're 65 or older, or care about someone who is, it's more important than ever to tune into smart ways to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion or heat stroke — high temperature records have been broken almost every month this year! Even if you're heart healthy — you're doing your 10,000 steps a day and you don't eat red meat — if you're over age 65, your risk for a cardiac event and death goes way up during extreme heat.
In addition, at any age, if you have asthma, COPD, kidney disease or diabetes, the stifling weather can make it hard to breathe, alter your body's response to heat and challenge your organ functions. Certain medications alter your response to high temperatures, making it harder to sweat.
So here's what you can do for yourself and your near-and-dear:
n Keep a refillable water bottle at hand; make sure to drink before going into the heat, while outside and when you're back indoors.
n Wear a 30 SPF or higher zinc oxide sunscreen.
n Feel too warm? Put your feet in a cool pan of water or place a cold washcloth on the back of your neck.
n No air conditioning? Book a rideshare service to help your grandmother visit a public cooling center or local shops or malls.
Beyond that, know the signs of heat-related problems: Heat exhaustion causes excessive sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, dizziness, headache, nausea, fainting, cool-moist skin, fast-weak pulse, fast-shallow breathing. Heatstroke causes red hot skin (dry or moist), rapid-strong pulse, throbbing headache with confusion, dizziness, unconsciousness.
The smart reaction to either condition is to call 911 and then drink cool liquids; use cool compresses in groin, armpits and at neck; soak in cool liquid; and remove restrictive clothing.
Q: We have a vacation planned for Chesapeake Bay this summer. How worried should I be about all these reports about flesh-eating bacteria, and what precautions should I take to protect the family? — Jasmine Q., Roanoke, Virginia
A: Don't cancel your vacation! The risk of becoming infected by necrotizing fasciitis (that's a group of A streptococcus bacteria that are called "flesh-eating") is very rare.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 700 to 1,200 cases occur annually in the U.S.
You can do a lot to protect yourself from infection and to make sure that if it happens to you, you receive effective treatment pronto!
1. DO NOT go into the water if you have an open wound, insect bite, burn, surgical wound, puncture wound (like from an IV or syringe), scrape or cut. The bacteria need an opening in the skin to infiltrate
2. If you have a compromised immune system because you're going through chemo, being treated for any autoimmune disease, had recent surgery, have diabetes or are very young or very old, be extra careful not to be scratched or cut while you're at the beach. People with previous health issues are more likely to become infected.
The CDC advises that accurate diagnosis, rapid antibiotic treatment and possibly surgery to remove dead or infected tissue are important to stopping this infection. So if you're back from shore and you notice that you have a scratch or cut that's red and swelling, you have severe pain around the swelling or redness, and/or develop a fever, get medical attention immediately. Other signs of severely progressing infection — ulcers, blisters or black spots on the skin; other changes in the color of the skin; dizziness; fatigue; diarrhea or nausea — also require immediate action.
Just remember that you can enjoy your time at the beach without any problems if you take sensible precautions!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at [email protected]
(c)2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.