How to Manage Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in the Summer Heat

If you live with congestive heart failure (CHF), you’re probably no stranger to your doctor’s warnings to stay out of the summer sun. The heat can actually be very dangerous for those living with CHF. When it’s hot outside, the body has to work harder to maintain a safe body temperature, and it does this largely through the production of sweat. The heart has to pump more than normal to signal the body’s sweat-producing response, thereby putting more strain on the heart than it’d be under on a cool day. This can have disastrous effects if not managed properly; take the 1995 heat wave in Chicago, for instance, which killed around 700 people, 39 percent of which had prior heart conditions. If you’re living with CHF, you can enjoy the summer, too; you just need to take precautions to ensure your safety and avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

People with CHF who get too much exposure to the summer sun are at risk of facing heat exhaustion and even heatstroke. But what are the differences between the two, and when should you seek medical attention?

Heat exhaustion is marked by: 

  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Fainting 

Heat exhaustion is considered the precursor to heatstroke, which is a medical emergency. It’s possible to recover from heat exhaustion before it worsens into heatstroke by applying cold compresses, hydrating as much as possible (preferably with a sports drink that contains electrolytes), and getting into a cool environment right away.

If you notice any of the below symptoms, though, it could be a sign that your heat exhaustion has progressed to heatstroke, which warrants immediate medical attention:

  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Vomiting
  • A pounding pulse
  • Hot and dry skin
  • A lack of sweat 
  • A high fever
  • Unconsciousness

Heatstroke can be lethal, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for these symptoms if you have CHF and are spending time outdoors this summer.

How to Stay Safe During Summer with Congestive Heart Failure

  • Dress right. Light-colored clothing reflects heat more than dark-colored clothing, so lighten up your wardrobe this summer to stay safe. It’s also a good idea to avoid thick, heavy clothing, which can trap your body heat and make it harder to cool down. Instead, opt for lightweight, wicking fabrics that’ll help your body stay cool.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s easy to become dehydrated in the summer heat without even realizing it, especially for seniors who don’t always experience the sensation of thirst. To combat dehydration, keep a drink handy at all times, preferably water or a sports drink that’s laden with electrolytes. Electrolytes play a big role in governing the body’s electrical system, which controls the function of all vital organs. This means they’re important for your heart health. 
  • Skip the alcohol and caffeine. Attending a summer BBQ with a beer in hand may be fun, but it’s not worth your health. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages have diuretic properties, which means they can contribute to dehydration. Pass over these and opt for hydrating drinks instead. 

How About Exercising?

You may think that it takes extreme summer heat for your body to need to work harder to cool you down, but that’s not always the case, especially if you live in a humid environment. High humidity levels paired with even mild temperatures in the 70s-80s can create a dangerous environment for people with CHF to exercise in. 

Talk to your doctor about developing a summer-safe exercise plan that won’t put you at risk. Your doctor might suggest exercising indoors or in a swimming pool until the weather cools off a bit. 

The Medical Attention You Need

It can be scary to suffer from heatstroke when you have CHF, which can make traveling to the nearest emergency room or urgent care clinic especially difficult. Fortunately, DispatchHealth provides a better solution to get the care you need without the hassles of travel: in-home care for people with CHF. If you have CHF or a and have been exposed to too much heat, get in touch with us to request quick, comprehensive care within the comfort of your own home. We accept most major health insurance carriers, and offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients. Don’t leave your health up to chance; contact us through our app, over the phone, or online to get the care you need at your front door within a few hours.

about the author
About the Author
DispatchHealth Staff The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.