Summer can be a wonderful time of year, a time when you can enjoy outdoor walks, gardening, swimming and so much
more. Summer is therefore a time when it can be easier to be physically active, which is a boon for your health.
This season also comes with risks, though, especially for older adults. Nearly 200 adults in the United States—most of them at least 50 years of age—die from complications caused by heat and humidity each year.
One reason behind this is physical changes in the body as we age, including reduced sweating, which makes it harder for the body to regulate internal temperature. Additional factors include chronic health issues and side effects from medicines, and that it’s harder to know when you’re thirsty as you age. In combination, these factors make it easier to dehydrate as an older adult and to suffer other heat-related symptoms.
Because summer heat can affect people even before they’re aware of the need to cool down, it’s important to protect yourself and monitor how you’re feeling. So here are tips on how to protect yourself, warning signs to watch for and what to do if you begin suffering ill effects from the heat. You can find more information at HealthInAging.org and Health.USNews.com.
Hot Weather Safety Tips: Take Action to Protect Yourself
- Adjust the times you go outside, avoiding the heat of the day. If you can go outside when the sun is still rising or is already setting, this can make a difference in the temperature by several degrees.
- Make sure to drink plenty of cool liquids, choosing water and clear juices rather than alcohol or caffeinated beverages. If your urine becomes darker, increase your fluid intake.
- Dress in loose, light-colored clothing along with a broad-brimmed hat. This will help you to stay cool and protect you against sunburn.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15, and use it even when it’s cloudy outside. Reapply every couple of hours and after you swim.
- Enjoy cooling showers or baths when you’re feeling too warm. If you don’t have time for that, take a quick sponge bath—or even dab your wrists, armpits, neck and ankles with a washcloth with cool water.
- Take advantage of air conditioning! If you have air conditioning in your home, use it when temperatures climb. If you don’t, visit a library, mall, theater or other cool place when necessary. If you are outside, take breaks by sitting in shaded areas.
Heat Illness Warning Signs
Warning signs of dehydration include weakness, dizziness, headaches and muscle cramps, confusion and fainting. As soon as you notice these symptoms, drink water and, if available, sports drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade. Call your doctor and, if symptoms are significant or worsening, call 911.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion can include either heavy sweating or none at all, tiredness and weakness, muscle cramps, cold or clammy skin, paleness, dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, fast or weak pulse and fainting. If you are experiencing these symptoms, move to a cool place and begin drinking fluids. Contact your doctor and, if water and shade don’t bring fast relief, call 911. Also call 911 if you start to have these symptoms and have high blood pressure or heart problems.
Heat exhaustion can ultimately lead to heat stroke, which can be deadly. If you or someone else is experiencing this, call 911 immediately. Signs can include body temperatures of 103 degrees or more, a fast pulse, red/hot/dry skin, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache and fainting. Confusion is also a symptom.
Being aware of these strategies, signs and symptoms helps you to proactively avoid problems so that you can safely enjoy your summer.