Summer can pose many dangers for senior citizens, including heat stroke and other health issues. Now that many parts of the U.S. are sizzling in extreme summer heat, we need to safeguard our seniors to keep them safe.
According to the Center for Disease Control, an average of 300 people in the U.S., die from heat-related illnesses each year. Additionally, seniors are at greater risk to those heat dangers since their bodies don’t react as quick to cool down and recovery time takes longer after overheating.
Here are some helpful tips for the elderly to stay cool and protect against the dangers of summer heat.
Excessive heat (90°+) can be dangerous, especially for those without air conditioning or fans to cool them down. Many seniors may avoid opening a window for ventilation due to security concerns. There are inexpensive safety latches available for windows to allow for air circulation while still preventing the window from being opened from the outside. Any breeze can help cool down a home when it is hot outside.
If air conditioning or fans are not available in a senior citizen’s home or windows just don’t get the job done, they can take retreat in public spots like shopping malls, libraries, community centers, or even pay a visit to family or friends, for a welcome break from the heat. A shopping mall can be a source of cool comfort, as well as a good source of exercise and diversion with some window shopping.
Everyone, especially seniors, should prepare for any hot weather outdoor activities. Wear loose-fitting, cool, light-colored clothing along with a hat or cap to provide shade to the face. Whenever possible, try to stay in the shaded areas and avoid too much extended exposure to the direct sun. Try to avoid the sun between 11 am and 4 pm, when UV light is strongest and the sun’s rays are the most intense. Sun block is always recommended for outdoor activities, with at least 30 SPF protection, especially when it comes to a senior’s sensitive skin.
Always stay hydrated, especially when the heat is at dangerous levels. Water is always a good way to maintain fluids. Sports drinks are good sources for replenishing electrolytes that are lost through perspiration during activity, but be cautious of sugar content and overindulging that could cause reverse effects when it comes to electrolytes. Conversely, alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks should be avoided in these hot conditions because those types of drinks cause dehydration, even though they seem refreshing.
Extreme heat can accelerate dehydration, especially those who may take medications with side effects of fluid or electrolyte loss. Medications like antibiotics and diuretics can block the body’s natural ability to cope with the sun and heat. Check with your physician or pharmacist to ensure that your medication will not create more susceptibility to heat-related health issues.
Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion, including the following:
• Pale, cold or clammy skin
• Extreme thirst
• Light-headedness or fainting
• Mild nausea or vomiting
• Excessive perspiration
Also be acutely aware of signs of the more dangerous heat stroke, such as:
• Hot, dry skin
• Accelerated pulse
• Possible confusion
• Body temperature of 104° or higher
Note: If someone exhibits signs of heat stroke, call 911 or a local emergency team as this is a serious medical emergency.
The great thing is that heat-related illnesses and injuries are preventable. Understanding the signs and being alert for symptoms will help combat that extreme summer heat. Keep cool and stay healthy.
At LifeCare Health Partners, we care about your well-being under any conditions.
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- Source information from Allan Riggs via Today’s Care Giver magazine.