Keeping Seniors Safe in the Summer

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It’s not even July yet and already the grass is burned out across the Tri-State, which means this summer has been a hot one. If you have a senior loved one, or you are a senior yourself, it’s just as important to be safe during the heat of the summer months as it is in the winter months.

Beating the Heat

Here are some tips for safely surviving the dog days of summer:

Limit outdoor activity and take breaks – This really goes without saying: The best way to stay safe when it’s hot outside is to stay inside. If you do find yourself spending time in the heat, stay in the shade as much as possible and go inside frequently to cool off. Getting in a pool will also help keep your body temperature down while you are outdoors.

Sun protection – According to the American Cancer Society, “Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year than all other cancers combined.” The good news is you can take steps to protect yourself from this type of cancer by limiting your time in the sun and wearing sunscreen or protective clothing when you are being exposed to the sun’s rays, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

It is just as important to protect your eyes for damaging UV rays, so be sure to wear sunglasses or at least a hat with a beak or brim that shades your eyes.

Review medications – Some medications are adversely affected by keeping them above a certain temperature. Others may make you less able to tolerate the heat or cause your skin to be more sensitive to sun exposure. Review all of your medications with your doctor to ensure you are taking the proper precautions with you and your medicine.

Drink water to stay hydrated – Just as our bodies lose their ability to metabolize food as we age, it also becomes harder for them to conserve water, which means seniors are more apt to become dehydrated in the heat. Drink plenty of fluids and steer clear of alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which can actually increase dehydration.

Spend time inside – Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean seniors have to stay in their homes. Fun indoor excursions include going to a movie, having lunch or going for ice cream, shopping, and taking in a program or checking out books at the local library.

Don’t forget the bug spray – Mornings and evenings are the best times to be outside if you’re trying to avoid the heat of summer, but these are also the times when mosquitoes are the most prevalent. If you’re spending time outdoors during peak mosquito hours, using a bug repellant can help protect you from these disease-carrying pests.

Signs of Hyperthermia and Treatment

Hyperthermia is the medical term used to describe when the body gets overheated. The National Institute of Health lists the following symptoms for hyperthermia:

·         Increase in body temperature (over 104 degrees Fahrenheit)

·         Confusion or combativeness

·         Strong, rapid pulse

·         Lack of sweating

·         Dry, flushed skin

·         Faintness

·         Staggering

·         Coma

If a senior has been exposed to heat and has any of these symptoms, call 911 and take steps to reduce their body temperature while you wait for help to arrive. Ways to reduce body temperature include getting them to a cool place; applying cold water to the neck, wrists, and under the arms or taking a cool bath or shower; and having them drink non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids such as water or fruit juices.

Because our bodies work best at a certain temperature, they try to maintain that temperature, which can be hard when the weather outside is hot and sunny, especially for seniors. So enjoy the summer, but be sure to do it safely!