Air conditioning units are luxuries for most people but, for people with certain medical conditions, keeping cool is a medical necessity. If you or a family member has a medical condition that makes it difficult for the body to regulate temperature, such as hyperthyroidism and multiple sclerosis, not having a working air conditioner in the sweltering summer months can lead to serious health implications. Here's what you need to know.
Identifying Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses
If you are unable to regulate your body temperature, you have what is called heat intolerance. This means you are more susceptible to suffering from heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. It's important to be able to identify the symptoms of these heat-related illnesses.
Heat stroke: This is life-threatening. Symptoms include fever over 104° F, rapid heart rate, lethargy, confusion, headache, nausea, vomiting, seizures and coma. The skin will be warm and dry.
Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include muscle cramps, fever over 100.4° F, fatigue, anxiety, headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The skin will be pale and moist.
Heat cramps: The symptom is painful cramps that are typically located in the legs. The skin will be flushed and moist.
Treatment & When to Seek Medical Care
Heat stroke: People with heat stroke require emergency medical care. After calling 911, move the person to a cool place and remove extra clothing. Pour cool water on the skin and fan the skin. If the person is alert and able to swallow, provide cool drinking water. Bags of ice can be put underneath the armpits and in the groin area to help reduce the body temperature.
Heat exhaustion and cramps: Take the person to a cool place and remove extra clothing. Cool the skin down with cool, damp cloths. Provide cool sports drinks. If suffering with cramps, slowly stretch the muscles. Take the person to the ER for IV fluids if there is no improvement.
Prevention Tips to Avoid
Prevention of heat-related illnesses is important. Stay hydrated by drinking eight glasses of water throughout the day. Avoid being in direct sunlight, especially during the warmest parts of the day. Limited strenuous activities to the evening hours when the air temperatures are coolest.
Install an air conditioning system in your home and keep it maintained. If the air conditioning system breaks, call for an AC repair service. Ceiling fans can help the cooled air move around, which may help reduce your electricity bill. A home dehumidifier can draw moisture out of the air and make your home feel more comfortable.
Financial Assistance for AC Installation & Repair
There is financial assistance available for you if you are unable to afford installation or repairs of air conditioning systems. There are grants available for those who have medical conditions that are worsened by heat, which includes the elderly. It may be a good idea to get a medical note from your doctor that states you have a medical condition that makes it dangerous for you to be in heat.
If your income is low, you may qualify for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This is a federally funded program to provide assistance to those who need help with their energy bills and repairs to reduce the health risks of being too cold or too hot.
If you can afford the installation and repairs but it would make purchasing other necessities difficult, ask your service if they are able to allow you to pay in installments. Again, having a medical note explaining your situation may be beneficial.
For some people, air conditioning is a medical necessity. If you have a medical condition that causes you to be unable to regulate your body temperature, it's important that you keep your air conditioning system functioning.