Older adults often worry about the winter because it’s cold, snowy and isolating, but summer has risks, too. Seniors are at a higher risk for dehydration and other heat-related illnesses compared to younger people so it’s important to know how to stay safe.
Whether you plan on traveling or attending outdoor activities this summer, be sure to follow these six tips for keeping safe in the summer sun.
1. Stay Hydrated
Experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water every day, but this is especially important for those over 65. Elderly individuals have a harder time knowing when they’re dehydrated, so it’s important to push fluids throughout the day. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages and stick to low-sugar drinks like plain water, cucumber water, coconut water or herbal teas.
2. Keep Cool with Breathable Fabrics
Loose-fitting and light-colored clothing keeps the body cool and prevents heat absorption. Choose breathable fabrics like cotton to regulate your body temperature. Layering is also smart because it’s easy to adjust to the temperature throughout the day.
3. Protect the Skin and Eyes
When spending time outdoors, it’s important to have protection from the sun. Sunburn can occur in just 15 minutes and can take days or weeks to heal. Seniors should apply sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) before heading outdoors, as well as UVA/UVB sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
4. Limit Strenuous Activities
Activities that seem basic to a younger person may not be for an eldery person. Be mindful about what you can and can’t do. If you’re feeling thirsty or tired, you might already be dehydrated. Choose low-stress activities like swimming, stretching or walking.
5. Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Heat-related illnesses can develop suddenly or over a period of time. These illnesses happen when your body can’t regulate its temperature. As a result, you might feel muscle cramps, fatigue, thirst and heavy sweating. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke, a life-threatening condition.
6. Take Frequent Breaks
No matter what you’re doing, be sure to take frequent breaks when spending time in the summer sun. Moving into a cool, air conditioned space is the best option, but if you don’t have this available, sit in the shade. Give yourself time to rest and hydrate so that you don’t overwork your body.
By taking these precautions, you can protect yourself from heat exhaustion, heat stroke and other complications. And, if you have any underlying health conditions like asthma or COPD, be sure to talk to your doctor about any restrictions. Minding sun safety guidelines will allow you to stay active this summer without compromising your health.