Summer is a wonderful time of year. For many, it brings back fond memories from summers past cooling off at the lake, camping, fishing, enjoying an ice cream cone or just relaxing poolside with friends and family.
Regardless of whether summer is your favorite season, it’s still important to ensure your safety during the hottest months of the year. This is especially true as we age.
Seniors are more susceptible to certain heat-related illnesses and should take extra precautions to stay safe in the heat. As we age, our bodies can’t regulate their temperature like they once did, increasing the chances of overheating much faster.
Other risk factors can include side effects of medications, weakness from health conditions, and even a reduced sense of thirst that causes forgetfulness when it comes to drinking enough fluids.
Some heat-related illnesses that can be mild to very serious include:
- Dehydration. Drinking enough water is important for maintaining hydration levels, which helps the body better deal with the summer heat. If you often forget to drink, set a schedule and stick to it consistently to ensure you’re taking in enough fluids, especially in the summer.
- Heat exhaustion. This condition is generally not life-threatening and usually occurs after several days of being exposed to high levels of heat. The body loses electrolytes and fluid. Warning signs include nausea, headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness.
- Heatstroke. This is the most dangerous heat-related illness and can be life-threatening. It typically occurs when the body cannot cool itself properly. It can result from prolonged periods of heat exhaustion without taking the step necessary to recover. Symptoms include headache, disorientation, agitation or confusion, elevated body temperature, stumbling, and even loss of consciousness. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Prevention Is Key
The best way to avoid heat-related illnesses is to plan ahead and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe.
- Check the weather forecast. If your area is predicting hot, humid weather, try to avoid going outside during the hottest parts of the day. Make plans on these days to see a movie, go to the library, or tour a museum on these days rather than planning outdoor activities.
- Stay cool. Keep your air conditioners running smoothly by cleaning and servicing them regularly. If A/C is not an option, be sure to cover windows that let in direct sunlight and open them at night to let in cooler, fresh air and use fans, if possible.
- Dress for success. Wear light clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes and keep you cooler. Choose breathable fabrics like cotton or linen.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water consistently throughout the day. Mix it up by adding lemon, lime, electrolytes, or even try some flavored sparkling water.
- Limit strenuous outdoor activity. If you must do hard labor or workout outdoors, do it first thing in the morning as the sun rises or in the evening as the sun is setting to avoid the most dangerous heat of the day.
Don’t let fear of the heat keep you from living life to the fullest this summer. Plan, prepare and practice prevention so you can soak up the sun without the risk.