Beat the heat: Eight summer safety tips for seniors

July 2, 2020

Cookouts. Festivals. Gardening. Parades. Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor fun and enjoyment, but for seniors, the heat and sun that come with the season can be dangerous if certain precautions aren’t taken. In fact, a recent University of Chicago Medical Center study found that 40 percent of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65.

Here are eight tips to help ensure you and your senior loved one stays safe during the summer months.

Keep hydrated. Seniors are more prone to dehydration because they aren’t able to conserve as much water as they could when they were younger and their sense of thirst becomes less acute as they age. Seniors should drink at least 8 glasses of water or sports drinks daily and avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which are dehydrating.

Stay cool. High temperatures can be life threatening, especially for seniors. If your loved one’s home isn’t air conditioned, encourage them to visit a friend or relative’s home during high temps. Senior centers, shopping malls, movie theatres and libraries are also good options to stay cool.

Dress appropriately. A senior’s summer wardrobe should be full of light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Choose cotton and other natural fabrics that are more lightweight and breathable than synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat will help keep the sun off your face and neck.

Wear sunscreen. Apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher at least 15-30 minutes before sun exposure. Look for a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply frequently if engaging in water activities.

Preserve your vision. Sun exposure can irritate seniors’ eyes and cause vision damage. Sunglasses should always be worn when exposed to the sun.

Avoid sun during peak hours. Plan outdoor exercise or activities either first thing in the morning (before 10 a.m.) or later in the evening (after 4 p.m.) when the sun isn’t as hot. Remember to hydrate even more than usual when exercising.

Watch for heat stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. Look for heat stroke symptoms, which include high body temperature, dizziness, headache, confusion, and nausea. Seek immediate medical attention if these signs are present.

Use bug spray. The elderly are more susceptible to West Nile virus, so be sure to protect yourself with bug spray, especially at night.

By following just a few common sense precautions, you and your senior loved one are sure to have a safe and enjoyable summer.

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