Summer can be a dangerous time for seniors as they’re more prone to heat exhaustion than the rest of the population. More than 80% of the people who die from heat stroke every year are over the age of sixty. Older adults have a harder time adjusting to temperature changes because their bodies are less efficient at removing heat. Many seniors also take prescription medications that prevent sweating and affect temperature regulation, which makes them even more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
But by taking a few precautions when temperatures rise, seniors can stay safe and avoid heat stroke. Here’s a list of eight tips that can help older adults beat the heat and stay cool this summer.
1. Stay hydrated
Seniors are at greater risk of dehydration than adults and children because their bodies hold onto less water. That’s why it’s important for them to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially during the summer months when they’re losing extra water due to sweating.
Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated, but milk, juice, and fruit smoothies are good options for seniors who get tired of drinking water. Coffee, caffeinated tea, and alcoholic beverages should be avoided because they’re diuretics that can worsen dehydration.
2. Avoid going out during the afternoon
The afternoon is the hottest part of the day, so it’s best to plan outdoor activities for the early morning or evening when it’s cooler. If seniors have to go out at midday, they should try to stay in shaded areas and avoid strenuous activity to prevent heat exhaustion.
3. Wear appropriate clothing
Wearing thick, heavy clothing when it’s hot outside can cause older adults to overheat. To stay cool, seniors should choose loose clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. They should also try to avoid dark-colored clothing because it absorbs heat and can make them feel warmer. They should also wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to protect their eyes and face from the sun. Sunscreen should be applied to any areas of exposed skin as well to prevent sunburns.
4. Keep the house cool
Heat exhaustion doesn’t just happen outside. Seniors can also get overheated if they’re in an indoor space that’s too warm, so it’s important for them to keep their home cool. Seniors should shut the blinds during the afternoon and use air conditioners to lower the temperature of their home.
Electric fans can also make a senior’s home feel more comfortable, but it’s important to remember that fans won’t prevent heat-related illness on very hot days. When the temperature reaches the nineties, seniors should find other ways to cool off and lower their body temperature in addition to fans and air conditioners.
5. Take a cool shower
Taking a cool shower or bath is a great way to beat the heat but it’s important to make sure that the water isn’t too chilly. Extremely cold water can cause a senior’s blood vessels to constrict and make it harder for their heart to move blood around their body. Lukewarm water that’s around 100 degrees won’t tax their heart and will bring their body temperature down to a more comfortable level.
6. Eat lighter meals
Heavy meals like stew or casserole can make seniors feel hotter, so they should be avoided on warm summer days. Using the stove or oven can also heat up their home and make it harder for their air conditioner to keep up. That’s why it’s best for seniors to stick to cold, light meals during the summer, such as sandwiches and salads.
Adding hydrating fruits and vegetables to their meals can also be beneficial. Fruits like watermelon, pineapple, and strawberries contain lots of water and can help prevent dehydration. Vegetables like cucumbers, romaine lettuce, celery, and zucchini also have a high water content, which makes them the perfect choice for hot summer days.
7. Use cooling products
When they don’t have time for a shower or bath, seniors can put a cool washcloth on the back of their neck, wrists, and ankles to cool themselves down. They can also use products like cooling vests, blankets, and pillows to cope with the summer heat.
8. Learn the signs of heat exhaustion
Learning the signs of heat exhaustion can help seniors get out of the sun as soon as they start to feel unwell and avoid heat stroke. When older adults get overheated, they may sweat heavily and feel tired or dizzy. They may also feel nauseous and get muscle cramps or a headache.
If seniors notice any of these symptoms, they should head to a cool place immediately and put cold compresses on their body to cool down. If their temperature remains elevated, they should seek medical attention. Heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke quickly, which is a dangerous condition that can be life-threatening so it’s best to watch out for the early signs.
So while seniors are at greater risk of heat stroke than the general population, with these few precautions during the summer months, they can still enjoy the season and take full advantage of the warmer weather. Happy summer!