Now that summer is here, many of us are spending more time outdoors enjoying the sun, heat, and beautiful weather. But it is important as the temperatures rise and the sun stays out longer to be aware of safety tips and advice for keeping cool and protecting yourself against the elements.
Older adults can be more susceptible to heat than younger individuals due to factors such as decreased circulation and sweat glands that don’t work as effectively. This doesn’t mean older people need to hide inside all summer, but being aware of tips, tricks, and signs of heat exhaustion will help you combat overheating and potential health risks of heat waves or particularly sunny days.
Here is a list of some tips to help you stay cool and beat the hot weather this summer.
Stay Hydrated & Drink WaterExtreme heat can cause you to get dehydrated much faster than normal, due to excessive sweating. When we sweat, we lose water as well as sodium and potassium. Making sure you drink plenty of fluids - especially cool water - is the best way to hydrate in the heat.
It is also important to avoid diuretics which can make you more dehydrated. These include drinks with caffeine in them, such as coffee, tea, or coca cola; or alcoholic drinks.
In addition to drinking lots of water, eating foods or snacks with high water content is a good way to stay hydrated. Consider Watermelon, cucumbers, or low-sugar popsicles to help you get enough fluids. Sports drinks are also good sources of electrolytes which can help you replenish water and sodium and speed up rehydration.
You can learn more about the importance of hydration for seniors here.
Keep Living Spaces CoolAir conditioning is the best way to keep your home cool, and beat the heat on hot summer days. Keeping your home cool will help lower your body temperature even when it is extra warm outside. Fans can also be helpful to keep homes cool and air circulating. If you don’t have air conditioning, or you want to enjoy an outing while beating the heat, shopping malls and libraries are a great option for a cool place to roam - they are almost always cooled with A/C so you can get out of the house while still staying cool.
Avoid Direct SunWe all enjoy soaking up a little bit of sun, but getting too much direct sunlight can be harmful. Wear a hat, cover up, or enjoy the shade of awnings umbrellas and sun protectors. This way you can enjoy being outside without getting harmful UV rays
Always Use SunscreenSimilarly, it is important to always wear sunscreen when you are spending time outside. Sun block or sunscreen can help you avoid sunburn, which can lead to an increased chance of skin cancer or other skin and health conditions.
Limit Physical ActivityEven the most active elderly people should reduce their physical outdoor activities in the summer. In the heat, our bodies are already working extra hard to keep us cool, so adding in strenuous activities can create issues such as muscle cramps. High temperatures increase the risk of lower blood pressure which can cause heat cramps and cardiovascular strain, or other heat-related illnesses. Your body’s ability to cool down is pushed to its limit when you exercise, so keeping activities light is the safest bet for seniors.
If you want to stay fit during the summer, be sure to exercise in air condition facilities, or opt for swimming, or activities that avoid the hottest part of the day.
Take Cooling BreaksIf you do want to spend time outside or in the heat, making scheduled breaks to get out of the sun or cool down is important. It can be easy to lose track of time, so forcing breaks can help. Consider visiting cooling centers, taking a cool shower, or simply stepping in from outside to enjoy some frequent breaks in the comfort of air conditioning.
Be Aware of Signs of Heat Exhaustion or Heat StrokeExcessive heat can hit you when you least expect it - and sometimes heat stress will creep up on you as your body temperature rises. It is important to know the warning signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion so you can avoid the need for a medical emergency due to over-exposure to the heat.
The following are common symptoms of heat stroke:
- Clammy skin
- Dizziness or Lightheadedness
- Muscle cramps
- Extreme thirst
- heavy sweating
- Fainting or Loss of consciousness
Educating yourself and your loved ones about the risk of heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke is the best way to protect against heat-related health problems. Health care providers, caregivers, and senior centers staff can help you learn how to stay safe and healthy while still making the most of these summer months. Our Pacifica Senior Living staff is always on hand to answer any questions and help you have a fun-filled summer with lots of heat-smart activities. Come visit us, or check out our newsletter of events and activities to see how we are beating the heat!