Summer health guidelines start today, June 21st, and it’s especially important for seniors to follow them. June 21st is known as the Summer Solstice and is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Today officially marks the start of Summer.
Summer Health: Attention Seniors
Seniors need to be especially careful during the hot and humid summer months. Hot weather is more likely to cause health problems for older adults for a variety of reasons. These reasons include aging-related physical changes in the body, chronic health conditions, and even side effects of taking some medications.
Summer Health: Stay Safe Is #1 Priority
Older adults need to be proactive and take precautions. So check the outside temperature and humidity index on summer days. If it’s above 90°, older people should keep in mind the following tips:
- Too much sun is not healthy. If possible, wait to go out until the sun starts to set or until early the next morning. Adjusting when you go outside could mean a difference of several degrees.
- Spend as much time as possible in air conditioned spaces. If you don’t have an air conditioner, go somewhere that is air-conditioned. Read a book at the library, walk around in indoor malls, watch that new movie at the theater, or meet your friends at the senior center.
- Drink plenty of cool water, clear juices, and other liquids that don’t contain alcohol or caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you (dry you out).
- Wear light colored, lightweight clothing. Whenever you can, try wearing loose, light-colored clothes as dark-colored clothes absorb heat. Wear a hat, it will keep you cool. These simple changes will help you both stay cool and avoid sunburn.
- Avoid sunburn. Use broad spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
- Stay Cool. Take tepid (not too cold or too hot) showers, baths, or sponge baths when you’re feeling warm. Don’t have the time? Then wet washcloths or towels with cool water and put them on your wrists, ankles, armpits, and neck.
Summer Health: Know The Problem Signs
For older adults, it’s important to recognize the health problems caused by summer heat and how/where to turn for help. HealthInAging.org provides a handy, helpful chart that seniors should keep with them as they enjoy the summer weather. Here are several helpful tips:
|Dehydration||WHAT IT IS: A loss of water in your body. It can be serious if not treated.
WARNING SIGNS: Weakness, headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, and passing out.
WHAT TO DO: Call your healthcare provider or 911. Meanwhile, drink plenty of water and, if possible, “sports drinks” such as Gatorade™, which contain important salts called “electrolytes.” Among other things, electrolytes play a key role in regulating your heartbeat. Your body loses electrolytes when you’re dehydrated.
|Heat stroke||WHAT IT IS: A very dangerous rise in your body temperature. It can be deadly.
WARNING SIGNS: A body temperature of 103 or higher; red, hot, and dry skin; a fast pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; confusion; and passing out.
WHAT TO DO: Call 911 immediately. Move to a cool, shady place, take off or loosen heavy clothes. If possible, douse yourself with cool water, or put cloths soaked with cool water on your wrists, ankles, armpits, and neck to lower your temperature. Try and see if you can safely swallow water or sports drinks. Note: If you are caring for someone else who has heat stroke, only give them water or drinks if they are awake and can swallow.
|Heat exhaustion||WHAT IT IS: A serious health problem caused by too much heat and dehydration. If not treated, it may lead to heat stroke (see above).
WARNING SIGNS: Heavy sweating or no sweating, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, paleness, cold or clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, fast and weak pulse, fainting.
WHAT TO DO: Without delay, move to a cool, shady place, and drink plenty of cool fluids, such as water or Gatorade. Call 911 without delay if you have high blood pressure or heart problems, or if you don’t feel better quickly after moving to the shade and drinking liquids.
Enjoy the beautiful summer weather in safety and happiness.