Each year we look forward to the long days of summer. The weather can become extremely hot, quickly. Older adults are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons. They do not have as great of an ability to sweat as younger people, and sweat is how you cool yourself. It is important to remember these 8 steps to keeping cool in the summer heat:
- Drink plenty of fluids: Water is among the best fluid to drink as our bodies are mainly composed of it. Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day is recommended. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. If you are outside, carry water with you and drink, even if you are not thirsty.
- Dress appropriately: It is common to want to cover your skin when out side by wearing long sleeves and pants. However, this will raise your body temperature. Try layering so you can remove layers as you become warm. Wear light, breathable fabrics such as cotton.
- Turn on the A/C: When it is really hot, turn on the air conditioning. Staying cool, especially at night, will help you recover from the outdoor activities and get a better night’s sleep. Also, turning the A/C on when cooking meals in the kitchen will help keep the house cool and make the warm food more appetizing or choose to prepare foods that do not require the stove or over. Preparing a nice salad with lots of summer fruits and vegetables, sunflower seeds and hard boiled eggs is a very nutritious alternative to a hot meal.
- The sun is strongest between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm. Try to avoid outside activities during these times whenever possible. If you must be out during these hours, take breaks often, try to remain in the shade,and remember to drink your water.
- Sunscreen is super important: Sunburns can occur within minutes of being out in the sun, even on overcast days. Apply an SPF sunscreen of 30 or greater fifteen to twenty minutes before going outside. It is a good practice to apply sunscreen even when you are not in direct sun. Even driving in a car exposes you to the harmful rays of the sun. Add applying sunscreen to your daily morning routine.
- Bug Spray: In the evening time, dust until dawn, be sure to apply sunscreen. Older adults are more susceptible to West Nile Virus and encephalitis. If you live in areas where there are a lot of mosquitoes and where West Nile Virus is present. Use mosquito repellent to help reduce the risk of getting bit by a mosquito carrying this virus. Additionally, bug bites can become infected and lead to other problems.
- Move exercise indoors or early morning: Walking, gardening and bike riding are all great activities, however, during the summer months, these activities may be too much to bear in the heat. Try joining a gym that offers Silver Sneakers programs or using a treadmill indoors.
- Check on loved ones often: If you are planning to spend time outdoors, call and let your family or a friend know. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can come on suddenly.
Heat Exhaustion: Although not as serious as heat stroke, heat exhaustion happens when your body becomes too hot. Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention but is not usually life-threatening.
Heat exhaustion symptoms may include:
- Excessive thirst
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Confusion or feeling anxious
- Excessive sweating and clammy skin
- Slowed or weakened heartbeat
Heat stroke: Heat stroke often occurs suddenly, without any symptoms of heat exhaustion. If a person is experiencing any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Call for medical assistance immediately.
Heat stroke symptoms can include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Hot, flushed, dry skin
- Very rapid or dramatically slow heartbeat
- Decreased sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Increased body temperature (104 degrees to 106 degrees F)
- Loss of consciousness