Harvey Wiley remembers well the happy response of an elderly person who had just accepted the delivery of a new fan.
"People are always grateful. When you show up with fans, they always have big smiles on their faces," said Wiley, who has been a senior advocate for 10 years at CASI, the Center for Active Seniors Inc., in Davenport.
The organization has launched its "Be a Fan to Seniors" program, which collects money from donations and buys box-shaped fans to distribute to needy residents in the community. It also accepts new, box-shaped fans as donations.
Wiley is one of those who delivers the fans. He describes it as a feel-good program for both the seniors who get the new fans to stave off summer heat and for people like him who deliver them. He might even hand out two fans per visit: one for a person's living room and one for the bedroom.
He suggests that even some people with air conditioning should get fans. That way they don't always have to run the air conditioning because of the expense, he said, and it's always good to circulate air inside a residence whether it's air-conditioned or not.
50 recent donations
Hot and humid weather is common in July and August around the Quad-Cities, and that can be dangerous for elderly people.
"They are more susceptible to heart problems, and they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition or to be on a prescription medicine that affects how they handle the heat," said Kathy Horrell, CASI's senior advocacy director.
Fans come from various donors, including Walgreen's stores.
"Many seniors out there don't have the means to buy new fans," said Dwayne Lorenz, the manager of the Walgreen's at West Kimberly Road and Division Street in Davenport. He sees the program as one way to help out and noted that the national drug store company really doesn't seek recognition for the outreach effort.
"I've dropped off 50 fans so far to them," he said.
According to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, the body's natural way of cooling is through sweating. But sweat doesn't evaporate quickly in hot and humid weather, so body temperatures can climb, sometimes to dangerous levels.
A serious condition called hyperthermia may result. The elderly, infants and those who are ill, obese or on certain medications are at increased risk, according to the NIH.
Hyperthermia can cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat edema, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In extreme cases, it can result in a coma.
Risky heat stroke
Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia that occurs when the body temperature is 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Heat stroke can lead to confusion, fainting, staggering or strange behavior, or it might simply present dry, flushed skin, according to the NIH. It does constitute a medical emergency.
Heat cramps are the painful tightening of muscles in a stomach, arms or legs. Cramps can be alleviated by drinking water. Heat edema is a swelling in the ankles or feet, and elevating the legs helps ease the condition. Heat exhaustion makes a person dizzy, thirsty, weak, uncoordinated and nauseated. Untreated, it can lead to heat stroke.
The CASI free fans program has been going for four to five years, Horrell said. Typically, 200 to 300 fans are distributed each year. The program formally began this year on June 23, and 25 fans were given away that first day.