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Tips for Staying Safe During Heat Waves

Many people living with Parkinson’s disease experience worsening symptoms in hot weather. As we continue to experience more heat waves and extreme weather, it’s important to be prepared! High temperatures can pose significant health risks for people living with Parkinson’s.

Stay hydrated

Some medications for Parkinson’s increase dehydration risk, so be sure to drink plenty of water. Aim for eight 8-ounces glasses, or half your body weight in ounces of water (i.e. if you weigh 200 lbs, try to drink 100 ounces of water per day). Avoid sugary drinks, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol.

Stay indoors

If you can, stay indoors between 10am and 4pm when the sun is at its hottest. If you do go outside, make sure you stay in the shade and in places with good air flow as often as possible.

Keep your home cool

Avoid using heat generating appliances, such as the oven, dishwasher, washer and dryer. Close your curtains and blinds and turn on your bathroom fans and kitchen exhaust fan, which pull hot air out of your house. Swap out your sheets for cotton or other cool fabrics and sleep in rooms that are located on the lowest floors of your home (heat rises!). Let the cool night air in by cracking your windows before bed.

Find a cooling center

If you don’t have air conditioning at home, consider visiting a library, movie theater, community center, or mall. Many urban areas also set up cooling centers for people to wait out the heat. If you live in the Portland metro area, check out this list at the KOIN website.

Ensure you have enough medication

Many Parkinson’s symptoms can worsen in the heat. Be sure you have the prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you need at home so you don’t have to venture out in the heat wave. If you do run out, consider home delivery services for prescriptions and over-the-counter medication needs during a heat wave.

Protect your skin

If you must venture out, make sure your skin is protected. People with Parkinson’s have an increased risk of melanoma, so sun protection is very important. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with values of SPF 15 or higher and reapply every two hours. Avoid going out from 10am to 4pm when the sun’s rays are most intense, seek shade, and wear clothing to cover exposed skin.

Watch for signs of heat illness

Heat stroke is a life threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Watch for signs of heat illness, which may include cool moist skin with goose bumps, heat cramps, excessive sweating, dizziness, feeling faint, fatigue, nausea and headache. Read more about heat illness on the Mayo Clinic website. 

Prepare for power outages

Restock your emergency supply kits and have a plan in place for a possible power outage, including having a secondary location to stay cool. If you or a loved one has medical equipment that requires electricity, make sure you have a backup power supply.

Plan exercise carefully

We’re big proponents of exercise—it’s essential to living well with Parkinson’s! During a heat wave, plan to exercise indoors and with cooling. Fans, air conditioning, cold packs, and cool washcloths are essential for exercising during a heat wave. If you feel you must go outside, plan to do so early in the morning or late in the evening when it will be cooler.

If you know someone who has Parkinson’s…

If a friend, relative, neighbor, or loved one has Parkinson’s, it is extremely important to check in with them during very hot weather. Call, text, arrange a visit! Offer to go shopping or pick up a prescription. Together, we can all stay safe!

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