The sun is an indispensable life source for the planet. Without Vitamin D, our body cannot process calcium. It means that you run the risk of developing weaker bones despite a calcium-rich diet if you don’t get enough sunlight.
That said, certain precautions must be followed to avoid burning in the brilliance of the sun. This is especially true for seniors who run a greater risk of developing heat-related illnesses or hyperthermia.
Hence, in this blog post, we have gathered vital summer safety tips for seniors. As people age, their bodies become less equipped to withstand the sun’s heat. Before diving into the summer safety tips for senior citizens, we need to understand the health risk for seniors posed by the scorching heat of the summers.
Types of Heat-related Illnesses
Listed below are some heat-related illnesses or hyperthermia that you need to be careful of:
Similar to heatstroke, this heat-related illness happens due to prolonged heat exposure. During high temperatures, our body takes measures to cool itself. The blood vessels dilate, which in turn limits the blood supply to the brain.
Hence, a senior might faint when exposed to intense temperatures. That said, fainting may not always be due to excessive heat. You need to consult your primary healthcare provider to identify other underlying causes, if any.
Seniors must anyway have annual exams to keep themselves healthy.
Most of us have felt dehydrated before. And often, we take it as a sign of exhaustion or fatigue. In reality, what your body lacks is water. The hot beaming sun causes more water to exit our body than our usual intake.
If left untreated or unnoticed, dehydration can cause severe complications in seniors. Hence, it would help if you looked out for signs of dehydration.
Some of these signs are:
- Feelings of dizziness
- Headaches or confusion
- Muscle spasms
As we age, feeling “thirsty” is not a sure-shot way of knowing that you need water. It’s because our body gradually loses its ability to send these signals on time. In other words, you may not feel thirsty at all but still need water.
Notice the symptoms mentioned above that may indicate dehydration. Since your body may not remind you that it’s time to drink water, you should set reminders on your phone to keep yourself hydrated. This is one of the most crucial tips for a safe summer.
When you’re both overheated and dehydrated, it leads to heat exhaustion. This is a particularly dangerous heat-related illness that poses a grave risk to seniors. Some of the signs of heat exhaustion include vomiting, nausea, clammy skin, weakness, excessive sweating, and a fast pulse.
Heat exhaustion often causes heat stroke, which is explained below:
When our body temperature rises to dangerous levels, it causes heat stroke. It usually occurs for a brief period of time when a person faces extreme heat for prolonged durations. A heatstroke is typically characterized by dry, hot, and red skin.
Other signs include fainting, nausea, dizziness, and elevated heart rate. Moreover, seizures, confusion, and behavior changes are big red flags. Call for help immediately in that case.
In the subsequent section, we will now cover the summer safety tips for seniors:
How to Stay Safe in the Summer Heat?
Since most seniors live with at least one chronic condition or are at a greater risk of developing one, they are more likely to develop heat-related illnesses.
Besides, age-related medical conditions, physical and mental health changes, and even certain medications can increase their chances of heatstroke or dehydration when exposed to the sun during summers.
Here are the best summer heat safety tips for seniors:
1. Limit Alcohol Intake
A nice, cold beer sounds like a good idea to beat the summer heat; only it isn’t. Even though most alcoholic beverages have a generous percentage of water, it’s the alcohol content that causes dehydration. Vasopressin is a hormone that allows our body to retain water.
What alcohol does is prevent our body from making that hormone. As a result, our body flushes out the water it cannot retain. With this summer heat safety tip, you should also remember that having a drink won’t leave you dehydrated once in a while.
Just make sure that you mix enough water with it.
2. Stay Indoors When It’s Too Warm Outside
The sun reaches its peak between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. That’s when it’s the hottest out there. Try not to venture outside during the afternoon. Your home is the safest place when it’s too hot in summers – an air-conditioned environment is your best bet.
Performing outdoor activities and planning errands are best suited during early morning hours or in the evening. One of the most crucial summer safety tips for the elderly is that seniors should pursue their interests and enjoy their indoor hobbies during the day.
You can, for instance, try scrapbooking or take part in a class. The daytime can also be spent exercising either at home or in an air-conditioned fitness club. How you choose to spend your time is totally your prerogative.
However, staying indoor during scorching heat is necessary to avoid heat-related conditions.
3. Use Sun Protection
Never underestimate the importance of a good sunblock. It should typically be SPF 30 and above. When you do go outside, apply a generous amount to the exposed body parts. One cannot stress enough how crucial sun protection is to prevent skin cancer.
Apart from that, you should wear long sleeves and long pants to shield your body against the sun. Also, wear light, breathable fabric and a hat to block the sun. Preferably, your attire should be in light colors so that it doesn’t soak up all the heat radiated by the sun. This is one of the most practical safety tips in summer for seniors. Blocking UV radiation is the key here.
4. Ensure Safety from Fire Hazards
The heat hazards in summer aren’t limited to the physical effects on your body. Summers also give way to fire hazards that could be life-threatening for seniors and everybody else living in the home.
Not just bushfires, summer fireworks also cause thousands of fires every year, especially on July 4th. Therefore, you need to come up with a fire safety plan after a comprehensive discussion with family members as well as your care provider.
That means figuring out an escape route in case a fire breaks out and knowing where to go in such an emergency. By all means, have a fire drill prior to the summer holidays to ensure your safety and that of your loved ones.
Moreover, your smoke alarms should be checked to make sure they have fresh batteries installed in them. One of the most crucial summer safety tips for seniors with hearing disabilities is installing smoke alarms that are equipped with flashing lights.
Another excellent fire safety tip is installing the in-ceiling sprinkler system. When a fire breaks out, this will put it out before the arrival of the fire department or someone dialing 911. These steps would help seniors upgrade their security systems while not relying too much on others for their safety.
5. Understand the Risks
Did you know that heat-related conditions cause nearly 658 deaths in the United States each year? That’s more than lightning, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined! It’s astonishing but true.
As we age, our bodies have more difficulty tolerating and adjusting to extreme temperatures. For this reason, you or your aging family members are at more risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion during summers.
Certain medical conditions or medications may exacerbate the problem. Check with your aging loved one at least twice a day. It’s also essential to know summer safety tips for seniors when they become sick due to intense heat.
At the beginning of this post, we discussed a few heat-related illnesses.
Let’s go over some actionable steps you can take for each one of them:
- Heat syncope: While putting your feet up, lie down and drink an ample amount of water or other cool fluids.
- Heat exhaustion: Besides drinking water or sports drinks, shift to a cool, shady area and rest. If you have hypertension or other cardiac diseases, call 911 when you don’t feel good after having water.
- Heatstroke: Loosen heavy clothes, move to a cooler place, and call 911 immediately. Soak a cloth in cold water and run it over your armpits, ankles, wrists, and neck to lower your body temperature. While waiting for 911, try to have sports drinks or water. A heat stroke needs immediate medical attention and should not be taken lightly. If you’re caring for a senior, give them drinks or water only if they are conscious and can swallow. Trying to do so when they’re drowsy could lead to choking.
- Dehydration: When you’re dehydrated, the body loses electrolytes. Sports drinks like Gatorade have electrolytes that would help to regulate your heartbeat. If your condition doesn’t improve after drinking water or sports drinks, call 911. Also, if you take diuretics or have other medical conditions, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to make sure everything is okay.