Seniors, the one thing to be mindful of this summer

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | General Health | Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 05:05 AM

summer related illness

Who doesn’t enjoy warmer weather? You can get outside and play with the grandkids, or tend to your garden and watch your flowers bloom. Whatever your pleasure, there’s no doubt that warm days mean more time outdoors.

But as the temperatures begin to rise and the days get longer, you still have to be mindful of your health – especially seniors. Besides insect bites and allergies, there’s another threat the summertime brings that can pose a risk. The culprit is the heat.

Seniors more prone to heat-related illness

71029650If you’re over the age of 65, you are at higher risk of developing heatstroke. Heatstroke, or heat stress, is a serious illnesses related to the increase in heat. Our bodies usually can control our temperature, but they simply can’t in the case of heatstroke. In turn, we’re unable to sweat, which cools us down. Our skin may feel hot and dry to the touch. Other warning signs include high body temperature, rapid breathing, nausea and vomiting, and possible confusion or agitated behavior.

If it’s not treated right away, heat stroke can lead to permanent disability or even death.

Heat exhaustion, on the other hand, may not happen right away, but occurs after numerous days of being exposed to the heat. Without proper hydration, someone experiencing heat exhaustion may have dizziness, weakness, headache, fainting and changes in pulse.

Seniors, unfortunately, are more prone to heat-related illnesses because their bodies do not adjust to heat as well as those who are younger. Furthermore, underlying medical conditions and medications may make it more difficult for their bodies to respond to heat, once again increasing their risk.

Preventing heat stress and enjoying summer

preventing heat stressJust because you are a senior doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to heat stress. In fact, there are many steps you can take that can prevent heat-related illnesses and ensure you enjoy all that summer has to offer.

Some tips I’ve summed up from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking adequate amounts of water can help prevent heat stress. But be weary of sugary beverages or alcohol – these can make you more prone to heat stress.
  • Rest: Although being outside and active is good for your health, know your limits. Taking rest periods can help your body stay cool and not overheat.
  • Take a cool shower: Or bath immediately after being exposed to heat for a long time. This can help your body cool down. But don’t take cold showers or baths, as this can promote cramps.
  • Take refuge in air conditioning: If you don’t have AC, find community areas like churches or libraries that do so you don’t overheat.
  • Dress lightly: There’s no sense in layering clothes come the summertime. Dressing lightly can help keep you cool. Ensure your clothing is breathable; cotton material is best for this.
  • Observe heat alerts: And stay inside. If your local news is advising of extreme heat, take this as an opportunity to stay inside.
  • Don’t strain yourself: On days where it’s hotter, avoid strenuous activity like running or anything that promotes excess sweating which can lead to dehydration.

Summertime is meant to be a great time for fun and relaxation, so following these tips will help ensure you stay healthy and safe as well. If you notice someone with possible heat stress, bring them to a shady area and try to cool them down – either with water or a wet cloth. Call emergency personnel as they can offer further assistance.

By practicing safe summertime habits you, too, can get outdoors to make the most all that summer has to offer. Enjoy that sunshine!

 

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