Arizona temperatures can be brutal in July and August and extreme heat warnings are common during the summer months for those of us living in Southern Arizona. Mix hot weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are lots of reasons to be extra cautious right now.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that people aged 65 or older are prone to heat-related health problems. Older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature and are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. Many older adults are also taking prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.
Wearing a mask and physically distancing to help reduce the spread of coronavirus is CDC recommended, but masks can also make some wearers feel overly heated.
“Cloth masks are generally cooler than the non-medical disposable masks sold over the counter,” says Anna Tometczak, RN, at Posada Life Community Services. “The idea is to wear a mask in public when you go out to do chores like grocery shopping for example, and take it off if you are alone in the car. Our vehicles are hot in the summer and there is no need to keep a mask on while driving by yourself.”
Tometczak also suggests trying to schedule doctor’s appointments in the early part of the day when temperatures are cooler, especially when the appointments are for someone under your care.
“It’s one thing wearing a mask yourself when you are caring for another, but getting your loved one to wear a mask may be confusing for them, especially those who may have dementia or other issues,” Tometczak says. “The smart thing to do with COVID and extreme heat is to stay indoors as much as possible.”
Experts suggest several tips to stay cooler and help prevent heat stress while wearing a mask:
• Choose a cooler material, like cotton
• Make sure it fits snugly but not too tightly
• Bring extras so you can swap if one gets sweaty
• Limit how long you wear one to when it's needed
• Moisturize your skin to prevent getting a rash
• If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather
• Don’t use the stove or oven to cook — it will make you and your house hotter
• Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing
• Take cool showers or baths to cool down
• Do not engage in very strenuous activities while wearing a mask and get plenty of rest.
• Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you