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July 04, 2018

Summer Safety Tips for Older Adults

Summer is finally here! And, after a challenging winter, plenty of people are smiling about the seasonal change. After all, summer is associated with outdoor activities, picnics with family and friends, and pleasant evening walks as the sun sets. But, a report from the University of Nevada, Reno points out that summer weather contains risks such as “extreme heat, increased risk of dehydration, foodborne illness and other health risks.”

A Seasonal Reality Check

The reality is that thousands of people, every year, “suffer from heat-related conditions (hyperthermia) like heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.” In fact, approximately 300 people die in the United States each year from excessive heat. People at special risk include:

  • Older people as their bodies’ cooling mechanism isn’t as efficient
  • Overweight people
  • People with poor circulation
  • People with chronic medical conditions, with high blood pressure being specifically mentioned
  • People taking certain medications

Summer Safety Tips

The report shares four tips on how to help prevent heat-related problems so you can stay safe and enjoy the summer. These include:

Air Conditioning

Spend time in air conditioning. If you have it at home, great! If not, visit libraries, malls or movie theaters where air conditioning is used. 

Stay Indoors During Extreme Temps

When temperatures are too high, stay indoors — ideally, as described above, in air conditioning. The most dangerous times are typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is at its hottest. When you do need to go outdoors, dress appropriately in clothing that is lightweight, loose fitting and light colored. Also important: sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. 

Drink Fluids

Dehydration is a risk for anyone during hot temperatures and becomes more so as you age. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty as thirst is a sign of dehydration. Instead drink non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day. 

Wear Sunscreen

Sunburn “damages your skin, causes a loss of body fluids and affects your body’s ability to cool itself.” As an article from the Sarasota Patch points out, older skin is less able to protect itself from skin cancer. A BBC study showed that, over time, skin has a diminishing ability to attract immune cells, known as T cells, to areas of the skin that need repaired. Therefore, the skin doesn’t heal as well, leaving an older adult more vulnerable to infections and skin cancer. Luckily, the solution is simple and inexpensive. Embrace the shade and, according to the American Academy of Dermatology recommendations, use sunscreen of SPF 30 on exposed skin every day, whether you’re indoors or out. 

Additional safety tips if you take a summer trip include:

  • Washing your hands frequently to avoid becoming sick
  • Carrying hand sanitizer
  • Protecting your credit cards and checkbooks
  • Saving travel receipts
  • Making your home look lived in while you’re gone

Enjoy your summer!

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