Summer Safety: Don’t Let the Heat Get You Down
According to the National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States, causing hundreds of fatalities each year. As we grow older, our bodies become less efficient at regulating body temperature, and it’s tougher for us to tell when the temperature outside is rising. Seniors are also more likely to have a health condition or take medications that make it more difficult for the body to regulate its temperature or to perspire.
Just as our sensitivity to heat dulls as we age, so does our awareness of thirst. This, along with our body’s decreased ability to conserve water, puts seniors at greater risk of dehydration. Summer heat adds to the risk because, on hot days, the body loses water more quickly—a combination that can make you sick. Here are some tips for staying hydrated this summer:
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take in fluids. Try and drink some water every few minutes, even if it’s just a sip.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can cause the body to lose even more fluid.
- Eat lots of fresh fruit, a wonderful source of fluids.
- Add fresh lemon, lime, or frozen berries to your water to add a little flavor.
- Use water to dilute fruit juices, making them last longer and increasing your fluid intake.
- Get creative! Make “mocktails,” like nonalcoholic daiquiris and piña coladas.
If you are on a fluid-restricted diet, consult your physician about how to get the fluids you need during the hot summer months.
Other tips to beat the heat
Here are some other ways to beat the heat this summer:
- Keep your home safe and comfortable by running the air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day and by letting in cool air in the early morning and late evening hours.
- If your home isn’t air-conditioned, take a break during the hottest part of the day by going to a movie, shopping at an indoor mall, visiting a library, or attending an air-conditioned senior center.
- Dress in lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing, made of natural fabrics, like linen or cotton.
- If you must go outside to run errands, work in the garden, etc., plan this for the early morning hours when it’s coolest.
Be wary of heat-related sickness
If you or a loved one experience heavy sweating, weakness, a fast and weak pulse, nausea or fainting, this could be a sign of heat exhaustion. In this case, move to a cool location as quickly as possible. Lie down, loosen clothing and apply cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible. Sip some cool water—don’t drink too quickly. Rehydrating slowly is key.
Heat stroke is a more serious situation and is characterized by a body temperature above 103 degrees, hot and red skin, a rapid and strong pulse, or unconsciousness. In this case, call 911 immediately. Before paramedics arrive, move the person to a cooler environment, remove or loosen tight clothing, and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin.
Enjoy your summer! With a little diligence and preparation, everyone should be able to enjoy fun and safe summer months.