Summertime is a great time to enjoy the outdoors, but it can also be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. All age groups can benefit from these helpful summertime tips, but the senior population is at the highest risks for dehydration, sunburn and other heat-related complications.
• Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a major summer time risk for seniors, more so than younger age groups, because as we age our bodies do not alert us that we are thirsty as frequently, and it is harder to adjust to temperature changes. Make sure you drink plenty of water.
• Keep cool. Even small increases in temperature can shorten the life expectancy for seniors with chronic medical conditions. Shopping centers, libraries, and senior centers offer a welcome, cool space to get out of the house and get some exercise.
• Dress for the heat. Everyone, including seniors, should dress for the summertime heat. When it’s hot out, some people find natural, breathable fabrics such as cotton cooler than synthetic fabrics. Plan to wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothes to help feel cooler and more comfortable in the summer time heat.
• Protect your skin. Everyone who is going to be exposed to the sun’s UV rays needs to protect themselves, especially seniors. Remember to always wear and pack sunscreen when spending time outdoors. It only takes 15 minutes in the mid-day sun for a fair skinned individual to sunburn. This time is even less in a senior. Hats are also a great idea.
• Know the signs of hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body to deal with the heat coming from the environment. Signs and symptoms include body temperature greater than 104 degrees, a change in behavior, such as acting confused, agitated or grouchy, dry, flushed skin, nausea and vomiting, headache, heavy breathing or a rapid pulse, not sweating, even if it’s hot out and fainting.
Seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms while spending time in the heat.
• Wear bug spray. Seniors need to be sensitive to insects and the diseases they carry. During the summertime mosquitoes are of concern due to the West Nile Virus. If you live in an area with a large amount of mosquitoes, where West Nile is present, or if you spend a lot of time outdoors, make sure to wear bug spray.
Information provided by Joey Burt, RN, Courtyard Estates at Hawthorne Crossing.