Summer is a beautiful time for outdoor fun and enjoyment. But the heat and sun that come with it season can be dangerous if certain precautions are not taken.
This is especially true for older adults: 40 percent of heat-related deaths each year happen in adults 65 years of age and older. Seniors are prone to heat-related illnesses because of age-related changes in the body, chronic health conditions, and even the side effects of some prescriptions.
When the temperature climbs above 80°F, older adults need to be proactive in protecting themselves from the heat. Here are a few summer safety tips on how to stay cool in the heat.
High temperatures can be life-threatening for seniors. Spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned spaces, especially during the peak heat hours of the day. If you don’t have an air conditioner, go somewhere that is air-conditioned. You can head to the library for a day of reading, visit an indoor mall, see a movie at the theater, or meet your friends at the senior center.
Seniors are more prone to dehydration because they aren’t able to conserve as much water as they once did. Seniors should drink at least eight glasses of water or sports drinks daily. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can have a dehydrating effect.
Another summer safety tip for staying cool in the heat is wearing loose, light-colored clothing whenever venturing out into the sun. Dark-colored clothing tends to absorb heat and should be avoided in the summer months, if possible. Top it off with a lightweight, broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your vision from dangerous UV rays.
Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen
Apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher at least 30 minutes before sun exposure. (Pro-tip: Look for a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays!) If you are engaging in outdoor water activities, remember to reapply frequently.
Avoid Direct Sun Exposure During Peak Hours
Plan outdoor activities and exercise either first thing in the morning (before 10:00 a.m.) or later in the evening (after 5:00 p.m.) when the temperature is a bit lower. When you do venture out, remember to hydrate well – no matter what time of the day it is!
Use Bug Spray
Bugs tend to be more abundant in summer, so spray on insect repellent when going outdoors. Seniors tend to be particularly vulnerable to certain diseases carried by mosquitoes and other insects.
Review Your Medication
Summer is a great time to review your medication with your doctor. Some prescriptions (and even over-the-counter medicines) can make your body more sensitive to sun exposure and high temperatures. Call your doctor’s office to go over your medications and ask if there are any heat or sun-related side-effects to keep in mind.