Hot weather can be uncomfortable for people of all ages. For senior citizens, intense heat and stifling humidity have the potential to be downright dangerous. According the Environmental Protection Agency, since 1999, people aged 65+ are several times more likely to die from heat-related cardiovascular disease than the general population.
Here are a few tips to ensure you stay happy, healthy and hydrated when the temperatures rise.
Make Sure You Drink Enough Liquids
Consume plenty of cool water, juice and other liquids that don’t contain caffeine or alcohol. Older people are more likely to become dehydrated than their younger counterparts, and they sometimes have trouble adjusting to changes in temperature. If you’re planning a long car trip, remember to take along a cooler filled with cold water. And don’t count on your body to tell you when it’s thirsty. Especially in the summertime, you should drink at least six to eight cups of water a day.
Prepare Your Home
It’s important to use your air conditioner if you have one, even if you’re concerned about cost. Keep curtains and blinds closed to keep the sunlight out, and try to spend more time on the first floor of your home, as heat rises. If you don’t have an air conditioner or there is a power outage, make sure to spend the hottest part of the day in a public place – such as a library, mall or movie theater – or at the home of a loved one with air conditioning.
Limit Your Outdoor Activities
Check the weather report, and don’t spend more than a few hours a day in the sun if an unusually hot day is expected. If you start to feel uncomfortably warm, find a cool place indoors to take a break. If you must complete more strenuous activities, such as gardening, yardwork or exercise, do so early in the morning.
After you’ve been outdoors, it’s vital to cool back down as quickly as possible. Wash yourself with a cold washcloth, or take a room temperature shower or bath. If you want to cool down even faster, grab ice packs or frozen veggies wrapped in a towel and place them on the back of your neck, wrists and face.
Keep it with you at all times when you are planning to be outdoors, and re-apply it regularly, per the instructions on the bottle.
Ask Your Doctor
Check with your physician about the medications you are taking. Some drugs make people more sensitive to the sun’s rays. Also, avoid taking salt tablets, which dehydrate, unless your doctor tells you to keep doing so.
Wear the Right Clothes
If you’re going to be outside for a while, it’s best to dress in loose, light-colored clothing, which will help reflect the heat from the sun. Wearing a hat is an excellent idea as well, to help shade your face and avoid sunburn, and a good pair of sunglasses is a must.
Don’t Forget the Bug Spray
Seniors are especially prone to diseases carried by insects, such as the West Nile virus and encephalitis. If you’re going to be outside for a while, a reliable mosquito repellent is a good investment.
Know Your Neighbors and Keep in Touch
Let your friends and family members know if you plan to be outside on a warm day, and ask them to check on you occasionally. This is especially important if you live alone or don’t have air conditioning.
Most Importantly, Know the Warning Signs
Hyperthermia, an unusually high body temperature, can lead to heatstroke, a dangerous condition, especially for older people. Seek medical attention right away if you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Rising body temperature;
- Dry, flushed skin;
- Heavy breathing or a rapid pulse;
- Lack of sweating when it’s hot outside;
- Nausea or vomiting; and/or
- A change in behavior, such as acting confused, agitated or grouchy.
Do you need more information about how to best protect you or a loved one from the high temperatures and humidity this summer? Contact Nye Health Services, which provides a wide range of services to maximize the health and wellness of older adults. For more information, please contact Nye Health Services at (402) 753-1400.