June 29, 2023
Summer is here in full force! July and August are normally the steamiest time of year. Taking time to go outside and get vitamin D is proven beneficial for our immune system and mental health. But extended time out in the heat can lead to some unintended consequences, so it’s important to take a moment to think about ways to beat the heat. Seniors are more susceptible to heat-related illness as their bodies do not cool down as effectively, and they take longer to recover when they get overheated. Being outside and active in the heat can cause dehydration and increase our body’s internal temperature, leading to heat rash, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
Below are some tips that can help you or someone you love to battle the heat, sun and humidity:
Keep Your Eye on the Weather Forecast
Plan your outdoor activities for the week avoiding the hottest days of the week if possible. If you need to go outside, try to avoid the hours between 11 am and 3 pm as this is the hottest time of day. During the middle of the day, keep cool by staying indoors or in the shade. Everyone, especially seniors, should wear loose-fitting, cool, light-colored clothing and a sun hat during the hot weather. Be sure to use a high SPF sunblock (30+) to protect your skin. There are also many clothing lines that provide lightweight tops and bottoms with SPF protection.
Seek Relief from the Heat
Excessive heat can be dangerous, especially for those at home without air conditioning. Many seniors may not have air conditioning in their homes, and there is a point when fans can’t combat the summer heat. When this occurs, visit public places, like a mall or library or visit a friend or family member for a break from the heat.
Beware of medications that cause dehydration. Many medications, particularly antibiotics and diuretics, can block the body’s natural ability to cope with the sun and heat. You should always check with your doctor to ensure that medications will not cause you or your loved ones to be more susceptible to heat-related problems.
Staying hydrated is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep our bodies from overheating when we go outside. Water is a great way to stay hydrated, but you also want to focus on replenishing electrolytes (potassium and sodium) that your body sweats out. Popular sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade are great options. We can also supplement hydration by eating more fruits and vegetables that contain lots of water, like berries, cucumbers and tomatoes. You also want to avoid drinks with lots of caffeine and sugar as they will dehydrate you and reduce the amount of fluid our bodies retain.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Overheating
You can ensure you and your loved ones are safe this summer by looking for signs of overheating. Some common signs are stomach and leg cramps, pale, cold and/or clammy skin, extreme thirst, light-headedness, mild nausea or excessive sweating. Signs of a heat stroke include hot, dry skin, a fast, strong pulse, confusion and a body temperature of 104 degrees or higher. If you are experiencing these symptoms or seeing them in someone else, you should call 911 and seek medical attention.
The good news is that heat-related illnesses or injuries are preventable. If you understand the signs and watch out for the symptoms, you can fully enjoy the summer safely this season!