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Beat the Heat: 8 Summer Safety Tips for Older Adults

As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, you’re probably preparing for the weather. You might prep your garden or lawn, start spring cleaning around the house, or planning summer vacations for you and your family. While preparing for the season, it’s important to prepare for your health and safety too.

From protecting your body from heat, your skin from the sun, and taking precautions to keep you healthy, there are many ways to prepare for the summer and stay safe. This guide is full of our best tips to beat the heat and stay cool!


1. Stay Hydrated 

Staying hydrated is essential for our bodies no matter what season it is, but as the days get warmer, our bodies use up water through sweat. For this reason, it’s especially important to stay hydrated during the summer!

Dehydration can present serious dangers for our health. Our bodies aren’t able to carry out their normal functions when we don’t have enough water, so many important processes halt or slow down. 

Here are some of the dangers of dehydration:

  • Dehydration can lead to heat-related complications such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or heat cramps.

  • Our kidneys can also be damaged if our bodies don’t have enough water. The kidneys are part of our renal system, which is the system that filters solutes from our blood and water into our urine. If we fail to drink enough water, we can get kidney stones and even have kidney failures.

  • The renal system is also responsible for maintaining electrolyte balance in our bodies which is essential for communication between cells. If our renal systems are unable to regulate electrolytes correctly, this can cause seizures.

  • Hypovolemic shock is when our blood volume gets too low. Blood volume is the amount of blood circulating through the bodies and is important for maintaining blood pressure and oxygen levels. If we don’t have enough water in our blood, it won’t be able to circulate through the body. This condition can be fatal if severe enough or prolonged.

Hydration is one of the most important safety tips for the summertime. Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated:

  • Bring a water bottle with you! This will not only help water be available wherever you go, but it will help you remember to drink water when you see it.

  • It is recommended to drink at least six glasses of water per day, but during the summer you should drink more due to increased perspiration and heat.

  • Eat hydrating snacks! For example, eating watermelon, cucumber, or other hydrating fruits and veggies can promote your hydration and nutrition.

2. Protect Your Skin 

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are 9,500 Americans who are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer each day. To break this number down, for every five Americans, one will get skin cancer by the age of 70. Skin cancer is caused by UV radiation from the sun that penetrate deeply into the skin cells, but luckily, there are ways to still enjoy the summertime while protecting your skin!

Here are some tips on how to protect your skin:

  • Use sunscreen—even if you’re not planning to be in the sun for long, or even if it’s cloudy.

  • Make sure your sunscreen from previous years is not expired. Expired sunscreen no longer does the job, so it’s best to just get a new one.

  • While shopping for sunscreen, choose a broad-spectrum coverage. This protects against UVA rays and UVB rays.

  • Choose SPF of at least 30.

  • Reapply sunscreen after two hours or every 90 minutes if you’re using a water-resistant sunscreen.

  • Use a lip balm with sunscreen and face sunscreen!

  • Wear a hat to protect your scalp and face from the sun and find shaded places to sit at the pool or beach!

  • Take Vitamin D supplements or a multivitamin with Vitamin D. Even though the sun is a source of Vitamin D, taking a multivitamin reduces the skin exposure to UV sun rays.

It’s also important to protect your skin from dermatitis during the summer as our bodies tend to sweat more. Dermatitis is a skin condition characterized by inflammation, rash, and skin damage due to overexposure to moisture. This can occur due to sweat, but it can also occur or be amplified if you have incontinence

The best ways to protect against dermatitis caused by incontinence are wearing protective underwear, using a gentle, pH balancing cleanser, and moisturizing and healing with a soothing skin cream.


3. Dress for the Heat 

It’s also important to dress for the heat. While covering as much exposed skin as possible is important for protecting your skin from UV rays, you can opt for lighter fabrics like cotton. These are cooler and more breathable during hot days.

There are also clothing options that protect against UV rays. These can range from 50 SPF and up.


4. Protect Your Eyes

As we age, our vision may experience challenges due to wear and tear, so it’s important to take good care of our eyes. If we expose them to the sun for too long, they can become irritated and damaged. The best way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses!


5. Exercise in the Cool 

Exercise is a vital factor for overall health, and as we age, exercising has tons of benefits! It supports muscle growth, helps improve balance, promotes heart health and circulation, and can ward off diseases and illness.

It’s recommended to get at least 150 minutes of physical exercise each week, but in the summer, it’s important to be careful of exercising in the heat. If you like to run outside or walk through the neighborhood, try exercising in the morning or evening while it’s cool versus in the middle of the day. You can also try to wear protective clothing that covers exposed skin, a hat to shield your face, and sunscreen to protect your skin, and it’s not a bad time to start water exercise, too!


6. Have a Contact List

Another summer safety tip is to have an emergency contact list. Add people who are close by to where you live or where you like to exercise. This way, in the case of an emergency, you’ll know exactly who to call and you can prevent medical conditions or injuries from getting worse.


7. Stay Cool 

Summer weather means higher temperatures and humidity. While it may just seem like a comfort issue, getting too hot can quickly become a serious health issue. Heat exhaustion is a condition where the body is unable to cool itself in high temperatures or during physical activity in the heat. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke when progressed enough, which can be fatal.

Heat exhaustion is usually caused by dehydration, alcohol use, or overdressing. Our water content is responsible for producing sweat to cool our bodies down. If we are dehydrated, our bodies may not have the water content to cool itself, which can lead to heat exhaustion.

In addition, drinking alcohol can also impair our body’s ability to regulate temperature and keep us cool. Another reason some overheat in the summer is because of overdressing. While covering exposed skin can protect from sun exposure and keep the body cool, overdressing can be dangerous. To avoid this, aim to wear light materials like cotton, and avoid layering in the heat. 


8. Learn to Recognize Heat-Related Health Problems 

Another tip to stay safe in the summer may be the difference between life and death. It’s important to recognize the signs of heat-related conditions so you can get help right away and prevent further injury or sickness.

Here are some of the most common health conditions caused by overheating, how to recognize them, and what to do next.


Dehydration

Dehydration is when our bodies let out more water than we put in. As discussed above, it can quickly become serious if unaddressed. Weakness, headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, confusion, passing out, and muscle cramps are some common signs of dehydration.

If you notice any of these signs, drink a glass of water and a glass of an electrolyte drink such as a sport’s drink. Electrolytes will serve to regulate your heartbeat while your body gets dehydrated. If you do not feel better soon after this, call emergency services right away or someone on your emergency contact list to take you to the hospital.


Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when our body temperature rises to dangerous levels. This condition can take days to progress, especially in older adults. If you have a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, dry skin, increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea, confusion, vomiting, or pass out, call 911 immediately.

This condition requires immediate medical care as it can turn fatal quickly. After you have dialed 911, try to cool your body temperature down as much as possible. Cover yourself with shade, take off jackets or warm clothing, and use cold water to lower your body temperature. You can also drink water and sports drinks with electrolytes while you wait.


Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a combination of overheating and dehydration. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can lead to heat stroke. Some signs of heat exhaustion are muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, pale complexion, no sweating or intense sweating, vomiting, increased heart rate that beats weakly, and a temperature between 98.6 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you notice any of these signs, supplement your body with water and a sports drink, cool down with shade and cool, wet towels. If you don’t feel better after a few minutes, or if you have high blood pressure or heart issues, call 911 immediately.


Summary

Whether you’re planning a long summer vacation or staying in your town this summer, it’s important to stay safe and healthy. These eight summer safety tips can help you stay cool all summer long and enjoy the season without worrying about how to protect yourself.

 

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/symptoms-causes/syc-20373250#:~:text=Untreated%2C%20heat%20exhaustion%20can%20lead,that%20can%20result%20in%20death.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916#:~:text=Get%20at%20least%20150%20minutes,provide%20even%20greater%20health%20benefit.

https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts/#:~:text=About%2090%20percent%20of%20nonmelanoma,UV)%20radiation%20from%20the%20sun.&text=Basal%20cell%20carcinoma%20(BCC)%20is,in%20the%20U.S.%20each%20year.

https://www.ohsu.edu/womens-health/enjoy-summer-and-protect-your-skin#:~:text=UVB%20rays%20have%20more%20effect,as%20more%20sun%20exposure%20occurs.

https://www.healthinaging.org/tools-and-tips/tip-sheet-hot-weather-safety-tips-older-adults