Who doesn’t love summer? For many of us it means trips to the beach, longer daylight hours, more socializing with family and friends, picnics, outdoor activities, and more. But the lazy, hazy days that summer brings – specifically in sizzling temperatures – also can pose some serious health risks to seniors. Here are some tips to allow for a safe summer season.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Keep your water bottle near you (and filled) at all times. Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration. As we age, our body naturally loses water, so that by the time we reach 80 years of age, we have 15 percent less water than that of a 20-year-old. Aside from that, our kidneys function less efficiently, and we tend to lose our sensation of thirst. Dehydration can manifest itself as dry mouth, troubled speech, lack of sweat, or confusion.
To counteract that, seniors should drink at least a half-ounce of water for each pound they weigh. So, a person weighing 160 pounds should drink 80 oz., or 10 8-oz. glasses of water, to stay hydrated. If spending time outside, seniors should up that quantity.
Older skin is more susceptible to the effects of sun exposure. It’s thinner and has a reduced healing factor when it comes to sunburn. Also, certain medications that seniors take can make them more vulnerable to unsafe sun exposure.
To guard against sunburn, apply sunscreen heavily and often, using a product with an SPF of at least 15. If you must spend time in the sun during the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), reapply more often.
Preventing Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
As we age, our internal temperature regulation system doesn’t work as well as it did during our days of youth. As a result, heat exhaustion – when our core temperature reaches 100 degrees – can come about quickly and unexpectedly. Symptoms may include nausea, dizziness, a rapid pulse, and muscle cramps. If left untreated, that condition could quickly escalate to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to these heat-related conditions. To prevent them from occurring, drink plenty of water and wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing – cotton and linen are great options – when going outside.
Making the right choices when it comes to your health will allow you to enjoy all the best that summer offers.
Source: Visiting Angels, a national agency, providing families with in-home elder care services.
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