By Stacey Johnson, RN, NHA ~
Yes, Colorado has had an unusually long stretch of damp, cloudy weather this spring in a state that typically enjoys soaring June temperatures and plenty of sunshine. But the sunshine is back and temps are rising which, as always, means more time relaxing, exercising and playing in Colorado’s great outdoors.
On the heels of Denver’s third hottest summer in recorded history in 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting 2023 could likely be one of the Top 10 warmest years on record in much of the U.S. and possibly approach the Top 5, according to scientists.
For people of all ages, and especially older adults, the risks associated with high temperatures and increased UV rays are very real – from small bouts of dehydration to a full-blown, life-threatening medical emergency, a combination of factors make the preparation for higher temps and more time in the sun that much more important.
According to NIH’s National Institute on Aging, people aged 65 years and older are more prone to heat-related problems as our bodies do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature like they did when we were younger. In addition, older adults are more likely to have chronic medical conditions and/or more likely to be taking prescription medications that can affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.
Being overheated for too long or being exposed to the sun without protection can cause many health problems including:
Signs of heat stroke are fainting; confusion or acting strangely; not sweating even when it’s hot; dry, flushed skin; strong, rapid pulse; or a slow, weak pulse. When a person has any of these symptoms, they should seek medical help right away and immediately move to a cooler place, such as under shade or indoors. They should also take action to lower their body temperature with cool clothes, a cool bath or shower, and fans.
Mardra Tracy, Janet Aird and Cal Johnston (left to right) enjoy a little game of Bocce Ball at the Village at Belmar in Lakewood. (Photo Courtesy: Ascent Living Communities)
But the added risks don’t mean you have to stop doing the things you love, it just means taking the time to prepare for your outdoor fun.
Some of the most effective preventive measures include:
If you or someone you are with begin to show any signs of heat exhaustion – heavy sweating, weakness or tiredness, cool, pale, clammy skin, fast or weak pulse, muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache or fainting – move to a cooler environment as quickly as possible, preferably a well air-conditioned room. Loosen clothing, sponge off or bathe with cool water, lie down and rest.
If high body temp, headache, confusion, dizziness or nausea persist, seek medical assistance from a doctor or emergency room to determine if additional treatments are needed.
Getting outdoors and enjoying the sun and warmer temps should stay on everyone’s to-do list. However, a few basic precautions and awareness of what to look for and when to shut things down will help deliver a fun, safe summer for Coloradans of all ages.
Stacey Johnson, RN, NHA, is the Area Director of Clinical Services for Ascent Living Communities (ALC). She began her nursing career while serving in the U.S. Army Reserves and has been a Registered Nurse for 29 years and a Nursing Home Administrator for 19 years. ALC has developed and/or operates three Colorado senior living communities in the Denver-metro area including: Carillon at Belleview Station; Hilltop Reserve; and Village at Belmar; as well as, Roaring Fork Senior Living in Glenwood Springs, CO.