News Release

June 24, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Hot and Humid Weather Increases Risk for Hyperthermia

Older People Especially Vulnerable Says UConn Health Center Physician

FARMINGTON, Conn. – When the sun is blistering and the humidity saturating, everyone should guard against heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the two most common forms of hyperthermia.

Hyperthermia is a high body temperature caused by excess heat, not to be confused with its counterpart hypothermia, which is a low body temperature caused by exposure to extreme cold. Both result in the body’s inability to regulate its normal temperature.

Heat and high humidity are a particularly bad combination making us all vulnerable to a variety of heat-related illnesses, said critical care physician Mark Metersky, M.D., at UConn Health Center. However, at particularly high risk are people with heart or lung problems, high blood pressure, or diabetes; people taking certain medications, such as antidepressants; and older individuals.

“Drugs such diuretics and some heart and blood pressure medications, or even a salt-restricted diet, may adversely effect the body’s ability to perspire and maintain its temperature, This, coupled with perhaps living alone without air-conditioning, makes our older population especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses,” he said.

Heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heat stress is caused by the extra strain placed on the body in hot weather.
  • Heat fatigue results in weakness, cool, damp skin, and a weakened pulse.
  • Heat syncope is sudden dizziness after exercising.
  • Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs following vigorous activity.
  • Heat exhaustion is the first warning sign that the body getting too hot. Feeling thirsty, dizzy, weak, and nauseous, and sweating heavily, indicate a significant depletion of water and salt.
  • Signs of heat stroke include confusion, hostility, peculiar behavior, faintness, stumbling, strong rapid pulse, dry flushed skin, not sweating, possible disorientation or coma. Heat stroke victims can die unless immediate emergency medical attention is administered.

What to do to avoid heat-related illnesses:

  • If you normally jog at noon, do it in the early morning or late evening, or take a brisk walk instead – slow it down; ditto for mowing the lawn, playing tennis or any other physically demanding activity.
  • Drink lots of water or other liquids that replace salt and electrolytes, such as the sports drinks; avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Wear loose, light, cotton clothing and stay out of the direct sun.
  • If your home is without air-conditioning or fans, and getting too hot to tolerate, go to a movie, the mall, visit the library – go where there is air conditioning. If you can’t leave, take a cool shower or bath, or sponge off with cool water.
  • Older adults, who live in an air-conditioned environment, should stay indoors on hot and humid days, especially if air-quality is bad. Older adults without air-conditioning or a fan and without transportation might consider asking a friend or relative for a ride to a cool place on especially hot days. Many social service agencies and similar organizations may provide such services.

“Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or nauseated are the first signs of heat exhaustion. Don’t ignore these signals,” said Dr. Metersky. “Stop whatever it is you’re doing if you start feeling lightheaded. Drink some water and use a cool wet cloth or icepack around your neck for five or ten minutes to help bring down your body temperature. If you start to feel disoriented or confused, ask someone to take you to an emergency room or call 911 right away,” he said. “And it’s very important to keep tabs on older parents, relatives and friends. They are at greatest risk.”

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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