Summer is a fun, laid-back time of the year, but it can also be dangerous. The excessive heat and humidity can be health hazards. Practice summertime safety, and you and your loved ones can enjoy the season without worrying. Here are five ways you can make sure you stay safe during the summer.
1. Stay Hydrated
It’s easy to become dehydrated very quickly without realizing it’s become a dangerous situation. As we age, we lose muscle mass, and our muscles help our bodies store water. Seniors become dehydrated more quickly than younger adults. Adults between the ages of 85 and 99 are admitted to the hospital for dehydration six times more often than others. Some medications and infections can also cause dehydration. Complications from dehydration can be as serious as seizures, kidney failure, and death. So make sure you drink plenty of water, milk, or 100% juice if you're out in the summer heat. Eat fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, like watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, zucchini, radishes, and celery. Read more about the importance of staying hydrated as a senior.
2. Talk to Your Doctor
Make sure you ask your doctor if any of the medications that you are taking can be affected by high summer temperatures. Some medications are less effective if they are stored at temperatures higher than room temperature (about 78 degrees Fahrenheit). You do not want a preventable medical condition to be aggravated because of an ineffective medication. Also make sure that you ask your doctor before you begin any new summertime activities, like water aerobics or swimming.
3. Dress Appropriately
Always dress weather appropriate, whether it’s freezing outside or burning up. When it’s hot outside, wear breathable, loose-fitting fabrics in whites and light colors that repel the sunshine. Clothing companies like Coolibar offer sun protective clothing for all ages. Invest in a big sunhat or a baseball cap to help shield your eyes, your face, and to protect bald heads from the harsh rays of the sun when you do have to be outside. Invest in a nice pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays. Learn more about sun-safe clothing.
4. Be Knowledgeable About Hyperthermia
Hyperthermia is a potentially life-threatening condition where your body temperature rises above what is normal, usually due to dehydration and exposure to hot temperatures outside. During the summer, be very cautious about high body temperatures. Know the signs and symptoms of hyperthermia:
- Body temperature above 104 degrees
- Dry, flushed skin
- Changes in behavior, such as confusion, agitation, or episodes of anger
- Heavy breathing
- Rapid pulse
- Not sweating, even if it is hot outside
- Nausea and/or vomiting
If you notice yourself or a loved one experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical help and get out of the heat immediately. Lie down, place ice packs on your body, and sip a room temperature drink. If the person affected loses consciousness or seems to be in distress, take them directly to the ER or call an ambulance.
5. Protect Your Skin with Bug Sprays and Sunscreen
If you are dressed appropriately for the summer heat, some of your skin is going to be exposed, so make sure you protect your skin from insects and the elements by using bug sprays and sunscreen. Bug bites and stings can be irksome, but they can also cause infections, diseases, and anaphylaxis. Finding the right bug spray is mostly about personal preference. Decide what smells bother you and know if there are any ingredients that irritate your skin, and choose the bug spray that is best for you. Read more about choosing the right bug spray.
Too much sun can lead to an increase in wrinkles, dark spots, and it can even cause skin cancer. Make sure that you wear sunscreen if you are going to be outside for a long period of time, even if it’s a cloudy day. Buy sunscreens that protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. It is recommended that you use a sunscreen that has no lower than 30 SPF and no higher than 50 SPF protection. Anything lower or higher will not protect you against both types of UV rays.
6. Stay in Touch with Loved Ones
Make sure your family members know where you are going to be and what you will be doing if you plan on going outside alone in the heat for any amount of time. High temperatures can cause life-threatening conditions, so communication is important in ensuring the safety of everyone. If you’re outside gardening or swimming, keep your cell phone close to you in case of emergency. Get to know your neighbors and ask them to check in on you periodically if you live alone. Likewise, check in on your neighbors often when it’s especially hot outside. Being friendly with your neighbors brings the benefits of safety and socialization.
7. Have Emergency Contacts
Make a list of emergency contacts’ names and phone numbers and put it in an easy-to-find area. Place it by your telephone or on a wall near the front door. Use this easy Senior Care Checklist as a guide. Label your emergency contacts in your cell phone as “AA Emergency” before their name so that they appear at the top of your contacts list when someone opens your phone’s address book. With a proper emergency contacts list, the right people can be called to help quickly in the event of an emergency. Planning ahead of time can help prevent any further issues and can keep medical problems from worsening.
8. Exercise and Play Safely
When we exercise or move around a lot, our bodies heat up. When we move around in the heat and humidity, our bodies heat up faster than they do in cool conditions. If you spend a lot of time doing outdoor activities, like walking, gardening, or swimming, make sure you wear the right clothing and continually drink plenty of liquids. Keep track of the time you spend outside in the heat. Don’t stay outside for long periods of time. It is easy to lose track of time when you’re doing something that you enjoy. Try to get your outdoor activities done in the early morning or late evening, when it is not as hot outside.