Summer is a favorite season for many. There's reason to be outside in warm weather and amid all the bustling life, and when in retirement, there are hours to fill the day with all sorts of summer activities. However, seniors have to understand there are particular safety concerns that apply during the hot months of summer. Sure, sunburn may be a worry for anyone, but overexposure to the sun and heat can cause severe issues.
In any case, it's best to be prepared for the summer temperatures and conditions. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when spending some time in the summer sun:
Always have water
Perhaps the No. 1 thing for seniors to remember in summer is that staying hydrated is overwhelmingly important. Older human bodies don't conserve water as well, which increases seniors' risk of dehydration. However, such a situation can easily be warded off when seniors take the initiative to drink lots of fluids and always have a source of water on them when venturing out. A durable water bottle is a good investment, as it can be toted to and from any occasion, chilled and filled with a lot of water.
However, as important as hydration is, don't go overboard with it. This may be a bit of a challenge for seniors to delineate because thirst can diminish with age; so while you may not remain thirsty, your body could be. Yet too much water ingestion can actually have negative effects, like electrolyte imbalances and excessive stress on the bladder and urinary tract system. It's generally recommended that adults drink six to eight cups of water a day. If you have trouble fitting that into your daily routine, try substituting water for a soda you might have with dinner.
Take breaks when active
If you're the particularly active type in summer and just can't resist biking or attending outdoor events, then be sure to know your limits. Overexertion can creep up on you, but is effectively combated when you take frequent breaks to cool down during periods of sustained activity. This is as important advice for the biker as it is for the senior walking amid a farmer's market or sight-seeing with family on a summer vacation. Such respites are also perfect times to rehydrate and catch your breath overall. The summer sun can not only test your limits, but push them. Knowing when to pause for five in the shade is crucial for seniors.
Protect yourself from the sun
As much as the sun is your friend during the summer, it can also be your enemy. Anyone who has ever had a painful sunburn in their life can attest to this, but for seniors the stakes are a bit elevated. Heat-related illnesses and conditions can develop quickly. When outside, it's best to take all the steps you can to ensure safety. For instance, baseball caps aren't just useful when worn at the ballpark—though they're certainly a must-bring when attending a daytime game—but during any summer situation. Sunglasses couldn't hurt either, since protecting your eyes is of the highest importance.
Sunscreen or sunblock is needed if you're heading to the beach and plan on soaking up the rays, or watching that baseball game under the noon sun. Light colors aren't just in-season fashion, too: They're ideal for summer because they don't absorb heat like dark colors do.
Know the signs of heat illness
Even if you take all the steps to protect yourself against heat illness, it's still possible for symptoms to develop, so it's best to be aware of exactly what those warning signs look like. For reference, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a compilation for heat-related illnesses to watch for, including:
- Heat stroke – Symptoms include: Body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or above, a fast and strong pulse, dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness. What to do? Have 911 called immediately and lower body temperature with damp towels or cold presses. The CDC maintains it's not healthy to try to drink water at this stage.
- Heat exhaustion – Symptoms include: Heavy sweating, cold and clammy skin, muscle cramps, tiredness. What to do? Sip water, loosen clothes and try to cool down. Call 911 if symptoms persist or you begin throwing up.
- Heat cramps – Symptoms include: Heavy sweating during intense exercise and muscle pain or spasms. What to do? Take a break immediately and drink a sports drink if you can.
- Sunburn and heat rash – Symptoms include: Painful, red, warm skin or blistering. What to do? Retreat to a cool, dry place and apply ointments, creams or other alleviating products.
Check the forecast
Another part of being prepared for the summer weather is checking the forecast before heading out, whether you agree with your local weatherman or not. It helps to know if a cool morning gives way to higher temps in the afternoon, especially if you left the house in the A.M. and didn't expect to be back until later. The same as you don't want to be caught without water in the heat, you don't want to be caught off guard by a temperature spike. The fewer the surprises, the safer off you are.
Use the air conditioning, or fans at least
When the heat is on, air conditioning becomes a savior. But many people often feel guilty about using too much energy, even if utilities like electricity are covered in their assisted living rent. Some residents may have just grown up tolerating the heat, but in retirement, there's no need to avoid the AC if you want to use it. At the very least, residents should have a couple fans in the apartment, keeping one by their bedside. If you're out on the town, always be on the lookout for places where you can cool down, like malls, cafes, libraries or other public buildings. There's no sense in pushing the limits when air conditioning can provide instant relief from the elements.
Summer is to be enjoyed, but seniors must always remember to stay safe in the sun. Heat illness can develop rapidly, and staying cool and hydrated is of the utmost importance. Talk to Edgewood today for more information about senior living if considering the switch.