HERMITAGE — As the temperatures rose to the high 70s Wednesday, a group of pickleball players continued about their daily routine.
Even though summer temperatures are on the rise, Jana Guerino, 63, of Sharon, and Jay Laskey, 66, of Hermitage, said they and a group of between 20 to 30 other players — some as old as 81 — still come outside to play a few games.
But to play in the heat, the pickleballers said staying hydrated is most important.
“I’ve been using a 32-ounce bottle for awhile, but I’m going to start using the 64-ounce bottle,” Guerino said during a water break between games.
Last summer, Dr. David Shellenbarger with Sharon Regional Medical Center said there were about 40 cases of heat-related illnesses. In these cases, the patients are “almost always” seniors unable to control their environment or temperature, or people with medical issues compounded by the heat.
“I think we notice an uptick around this time every year in the number of heat strokes and heat exhaustion, because you’re at a higher risk when the temperature and the humidity are both high,” Shellenbarger said.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion, which Shellenbarger described as “almost a prequel” to heat stroke, include severe headache, fatigue and sweating. Heat stroke symptoms include sweating, confusion and seizures.
In cases of heat exhaustion, treatment usually consists of rapidly cooling the body, including the use of cool air, ice, water or cooling blankets. However, heat strokes are “very dangerous” with a high mortality rate, he said.
“Usually the elderly who are more mobile and active are better off because they’re able to control their environment,” Shellenbarger said. “But it’s really important that if you have a family member who is elderly and can’t get around to take care of themselves, to maybe check on them more often to make sure the air conditioning is on or the air in their home is moving around.”
Fortunately, the weather so far this summer hasn’t been hot enough to have created many issues for seniors, said Sandy Swogger, acting chief executive officer with the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging.
“Sometimes seniors are a little more resistant to the heat because they’re used to living in times when there wasn’t air conditioning,” Swogger said.
Though the senior centers in Mercer County haven’t reported a noticeable increase in participation among seniors, Swogger said the agency would be sending out brochures with information to help seniors beat the heat, including:
• Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
• Keep air conditioning or fans running.
• Reschedule activities for cooler times of the day.
Seniors are also encouraged to call the agency at 724-662-6222 for information or services, such as help relocating to cooler locations. Seniors can also attend any of the senior centers in Sandy Lake, Grove City, Greenville and Hermitage from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Swogger said.
Another option for seniors looking for information or services would be the 211 line, which James Micsky, executive director of United Way of Mercer County, said is available 24-7 to help connect seniors with agencies in their areas.
“Normally we find that in larger cities there may be more call activity, but this is a more rural area, so most seniors have family or friends that are able to help them,” Micsky said.
However, the 211 line is best for non-emergency situations, which is why Micsky recommended calling 911 for an immediate need or emergency. That’s where organizations such as McGonigle Ambulance Service in Hermitage step in, Director of operations Kurt Ellefson said.
With cases involving seniors, who may open windows or have a fan to turn on, ambulance crews can cool down the patient or use IV fluids to do so, as well as provide information to the patient as well, Ellefson said.
“Usually we’ll educate the patient, or if they’re in an environment that could be dangerous or if we’ve been there repeatedly, then we’ll try to call an agency to assist them,” Ellefson said.