While everyone should be staying indoors and practicing physical distancing, for the most part, you can still (safely) enjoy these warm summer days. The sun provides us with a whole lot, but some days we all wish we could dial down the heat just a little bit. For seniors, heat-related illness is a threat if you are not practicing summer heat safety. When we age, our bodies can’t respond to or protect ourselves from the heat as well. During the summer months, older adults are at a greater risk for hyperthermia, or heat-related illness. Learn more about these heat-related illnesses and helpful summer safety tips for seniors you can use.
As we mentioned, hyperthermia occurs when a person is overheated. Hyperthermia covers a few different heat-related illnesses. To best prepare, understanding what these illnesses are can help you identify it in the future. With our summer safety tips, you can stay safe in the heat and be vigilant for others.
All of us have been dehydrated before, but it may often disguise itself as simple fatigue, or just feeling “tired.” With the hot sun beaming down on us, water exits our body in the form of sweat. If unnoticed or untreated, dehydration can lead to serious complications.
Look for signs in yourself and others. If you or someone else is feeling dizzy or faint or is having muscle spasms, headaches or confusion, then it might be dehydration. Remember, dehydration can mask itself as fatigue, and your body isn’t as good as letting you know you’re “thirsty” as we age.
Heat syncope, like heat stroke, happens within the first few days of heat exposure. However, heat syncope is when someone faints due to the intense temperatures. When the body tries to cool itself, blood vessels dilate where it limits the amount of blood reaching the brain. However, fainting is not always caused by heat. There may be other underlying causes, so be sure to pay attention to your health.
Heat exhaustion occurs when a person is both dehydrated and overheated. This is a dangerous condition as it may lead to a heat stroke (below). A person experiencing heat exhaustion may experience excessive sweating, weakness, cold or clammy skin, nausea, and vomiting, or a weak and fast pulse.
A serious heat-related illness, heat stroke happens when there is a dangerous rise in our body temperature. Heatstroke occurs when people are exposed to extreme heat over a long period of time. It can happen anywhere within a day or over a few days. However, heatstroke typically happens in a very short period of time.
For heat stroke, look out for red, hot, and dry skin. Additionally, a person may experience a rise in their heart rate, dizziness, nausea, or even fainting. Behavior changes, confusion, and seizures are big red flags. If you notice these signs, call for help immediately.
Summer Safety Tips for Seniors
Now that you can identify different heat-related illnesses, we will review our summer safety tips for seniors. You can beat the heat and enjoy this beautiful time of the year.
Monitor Your Conditions
Seniors may develop chronic health conditions in their lives. Monitoring your body is an especially important summertime safety tip for adults. When exposed to heat, your chronic conditions may flare up or may increase your risk of a heat-related illness.
Because of this, it’s an especially important summer safety tip. Make sure you are constantly mindful of your symptoms and how the heat may affect your body. Older adults who have heart, lung, kidney diseases, or are overweight should be especially cautious when out in the heat.
Perhaps the best and most refreshing way to stay cool is to drink enough water. This summer safety tip cannot be overstated. Staying properly hydrated is a major way to prevent heat-related illness. Older adults should drink between 1.7 and 2.0 liters of fluid per 24 hours.
In the case that you are dehydrated, electrolyte-rich beverages like Gatorade are a good option. However, err on the side of caution when you buy sports drinks. They can be especially high in sugar, so be sure to look for low or zero sugar options.
Who doesn’t love a nice, cold beer on a hot summer day? While some alcoholic beverages contain a good amount of water, alcohol is a fast track to dehydration. Alcohol prevents your body from making enough vasopressin, an essential hormone that helps your body retain water.
With this heat safety tip, keep in mind that it’s ok to have an alcoholic beverage. But, always be sure to mix in water to keep you healthy and hydrated.
Dress Light and Stay Cool
If you’re anticipating being in the sun for a while, make sure you plan ahead with our next summer safety tip for seniors. You should wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing when out in the sun. The light colors help reflect sunlight, and the loose, natural fabric helps your body breathe to prevent overheating.
Before you head out, it is a good idea to pack a small cooler with damp face cloths. When you’re feeling hot, toss one of them around your neck or head for instant relief. As always, make sure you wear sunblock!
When In Doubt, Stay Indoors
The safest way to avoid heat-related illness is to stay in a cool environment. This summer safety tip for seniors is crucial, especially if you are the adventurous type. If it is simply too hot or humid, feel free to enjoy the day at home with an air conditioner.
Sometimes, senior or community centers are also air-conditioned. If you do not have access to one, you can almost certainly find a place to hunker down and stay cool.
Now that you are equipped with the best summer safety tips for seniors, you’re ready for the summer. Make sure that you constantly monitor your body for any danger signs. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and be sure to dress in light, loose-fitting clothing. Of course, the safest bet is to stay indoors when the sun is too much.
At Iora, we understand that all our patients want to live their life to the fullest extent. When we empower our patients with information and resources, they can take back their health and develop healthy habits. As part of this, we want seniors to know there are ways they can enjoy the beautiful summer weather while keeping themselves safe as well.