After a long, frigid winter, everyone looks forward to getting outdoors during the summer months.
However, older adults must take special precautions when venturing outside to enjoy the sun. Heat can increase strain on the heart and trigger heart attacks. Prolonged sun exposure leading to skin cancer or heat stroke are also significant concerns among the older population.
Here are 10 tips that will help minimize the heat-related health risks while enjoying our all-too-short summers!
1. Stay hydrated
On hot, humid days, our bodies lose moisture faster than usual. Decrease your chances of heat exhaustion by drinking plenty of water, fruit juice, or sports drinks with electrolytes, even if you’re not thirsty. Also, keep in mind that caffeinated beverages and alcohol can lead to dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of water after a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or a fruity cocktail.
2. Dress for the warmer temperatures
As the temperature and humidity levels rise, be sure to dress appropriately. Stick to lightweight, loose-fitting garments made of cotton, linen, or other natural fibers. Avoid synthetic fabrics as they can trap heat and perspiration against the body. Have a light wrap handy in case you go into an air-conditioned space to escape the heat.
3. Protect your skin from the sun
It’s natural to want to sit and relax under the sun. However, be sure to exercise prudence by protecting yourself against harmful UV rays that can damage your skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every two hours you’re outside. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect you from heatstroke and avoid direct exposure to the sun during peak hours (10 am to 3 pm).
4. Use eye protection
Prolonged sun exposure can damage your eyes. Whenever you’re outside in direct sunlight, wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection. Also, opt for the largest size possible to block the sun from your eyes at every angle.
5. Be careful with medications
Medications can sometimes cause increased sun sensitivity. Check your prescription for possible side effects of sun exposure while taking it, and limit your time outside accordingly. If you have any questions or concerns, consult with the prescribing physician or your pharmacist.
6. Prepare your home for hot days
The last thing anyone wants during the summer is a broken air conditioning system. Be sure to have your system inspected before the hot weather arrives. You can install window units to protect against humidity if you don’t have central air. Another way to cool your indoor space is to open the windows early in the morning and evening and use fans to circulate the cooler air.
7. Know where public cooling stations are
On extremely hot days, temperatures inside homes with inadequate or no air conditioning can rise to dangerous levels. Municipalities often issue heat alerts and set up local public cooling stations during sweltering weather, so know where they are in case you need a place to cool down. Toronto cooling stations can be found here.
8. Take precautions against insects
Ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects are more than just nuisances. They can infect humans with dangerous illnesses such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. You can take precautions by:
- Applying insect repellent
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially when hiking, picnicking, or spending time in bushy areas or places with tall grass
- Tucking your pants into your socks or boots to protect against ticks
Avoiding or removing standing water where mosquitoes tend to breed
Check your entire body for ticks when you get home. If you find any, seek medical attention immediately.
9. Have a plan for summer weather emergencies
Summer isn’t just the peak season for hot, humid weather. It’s also a heightened time of the year for thunderstorms. Be sure to stay indoors if you hear thunder. Tornadoes usually peak in the spring but can also happen in the summer. Keep an eye on weather alerts and follow the instructions of your local weather advisory.
10. aware of the signs of heat-related health conditions
You can definitely have too much of a good thing if fun in the sun causes a heat-related illness. If you’re sweating heavily, have a rapid pulse, feel confused, have dry, flushed skin, or start having muscle cramps, you might be suffering from heat exhaustion. Move to a cooler place, soak clothing in cool water, and place wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits and groin. If you think you or someone with you has heatstroke, call 911 – it’s a condition that warrants emergency treatment.
Following these tips will help you have a happy, healthy summer with fewer risks of heat-related illness. If you have any questions about summertime safety for seniors or are interested in our professional elder care support services, please reach out to our team anytime.