Summer Safety Tips for Seniors
By: Brianne Hrabosky, enrollment manager, LIFE Lawrence County
Summer is typically a time of fun and relaxation. But for older people, the heat and sun can be dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken.
Stay Hydrated – Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people because they lose their ability to conserve water as they age. They also can become less aware of their thirst and have difficulty adjusting to temperature changes. Remember to drink water often, and be sure to pack some for any long trips.
Talk to Your Doctor or Nurse – Check with your medical team to make sure any medications you are on won’t be affected by higher temperatures, especially if you don’t have air conditioning in your home. Some medications are less effective if stored at temperatures higher than 78 degrees.
Stay in Touch – High temperatures can sometimes be life threatening, so communication plays an important role in ensuring the safety of the elderly. You should let friends and family know if you will spending an extended period of time outdoors, and be sure you have a way to contact your family or medical professional if you start to feel sick. You can even ask a neighbor to check in on you on especially hot days.
Know Who to Call – Prepare a list of emergency phone numbers and place them in an easy to access area. This way, the right people can be called to help quickly, preventing any further issues or preventing any medical problems from getting worse.
Wear the Right Gear – Everyone, including seniors, should dress appropriately for the weather. When it is warm out, some people find natural fabrics such as cotton to be cooler than synthetic fibers. Stock your summer wardrobe with light-colored and loose fitting clothing to help feel cooler and more comfortable.
Protect Your Eyes – Vision loss can be common among the elderly, and too much exposure to the sun can irritate eyes and cause further damage. Wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and preserve your vision.
Know the Risks of Hyperthermia – During the summer, be particularly cautious about high body temperatures, or hyperthermia. Heat stroke is an advanced form of hyperthermia that can be life-threatening. Make sure you know the warning signs and get medical attention immediately if you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms:
- Body temperature higher than 104 degrees
- A change in behavior, such as acting confused, agitated or grouchy
- Dry, flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heavy breathing or rapid pulse
- Not sweating, even if it is hot out
If you start to feel any of these symptoms, tell someone around you and get out of the heat, lie down and place ice packs on your body.
Wear Sunscreen and Hats – Everyone, young and old, should wear sunscreen when outdoors. The elderly especially need the extra sun protection. Hats are also a great ides, especially for those with light colored hair or thinning hair.
Exercise Smart – If you enjoy outdoor activities, make sure to wear the proper clothing and protective gear. It is also important to keep track of time. Do not stay out for long periods and make sure to drink even more water than usual when exercising. Also consider doing outdoor exercise earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is not at its peak.