Don’t Sweat the Summer Heat: Safety Tips for Older Adults this Season
OMAHA, Neb. (July 28, 2022) – Summer means more time to relax in the sun and engage in some of our favorite outdoor activities. However, extra sunlight, high temperatures, and humidity can come with additional health risks. While too much heat is dangerous at any age, as we get older, our bodies lose the ability to adequately respond to heat, according to the National Institutes of Health. As a result, older adults are at an increased risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and heat cramps.
“Summertime plans usually lead to a jam-packed schedule, but as seniors can experience hyperthermia and dehydration in the summer months, it’s important that they pay attention to their bodies and take precautions to stay safe and healthy,” said Lakelyn Hogan Eichenberger, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiving advocate at Home Instead, Inc. “Loved ones should plan activities that are safe and enjoyable for older adults. And remember, there is no need to cram all the summer fun into just one week or month.”
Hogan Eichenberger recommends the following tips for older adults to ensure a safe and cool summer.
- Stay hydrated. As you plan your day, think through how long you will be out and how you will stay hydrated. Make a habit of keeping a reusable water bottle handy and drink water throughout the day. Consuming water-rich foods like melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes, and strawberries are a great way to stay hydrated. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages such as soda, coffee, or alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration.
- Wear protective clothing and sunscreen. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to protect our skin against the sun’s rays, which can lead to sun damage and melanoma. Be sure to cover up in lightweight, loose fitting, and light-colored clothing, and wear a hat and sunglasses to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face. Stock up on sunscreen with at least 30 SPF to protect exposed skin against UVA and UVB rays. Reapply as directed.
- Avoid sun during peak hours. The sun is at its brightest, and most damaging, from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m., while the middle of the afternoon tends to be the hottest part of the day. Plan accordingly and try to limit outdoor activities to the morning and evening hours.
- Keep medications properly stored. Before leaving the house, remember to pack all necessary medications you may need for a day of fun in the sun. Keep in mind that some medications don’t mix well with sun exposure and may need to be approved by a physician to ensure prolonged outdoor activities are safe.
- Keep your cool. Having a working air conditioning unit is important when it is hot and humid outside. Just as 68 degrees Fahrenheit is considered the ideal winter thermostat setting, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends you set the thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months.
- Stay in Touch. Having a family member, friend, or neighbor visit regularly is a great way to stay connected and ensure your safety during these hot summer days. Let friends and family know if you’ll be spending an extended period of time outdoors, even if you’re only gardening or going for a walk. In addition, make a list of all emergency contacts including family, doctors, and caregivers, so you have this information ready if you should need it quickly.
By minding sun safety guidelines and taking the necessary safety precautions, older adults can enjoy the fun and adventure of the summer season. For more aging tips and resources, visit: www.homeinstead.com/care-resources/.
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