People over the age of 65 are more vulnerable to heat strokes and exhaustion, according to the CDC. As we age, it becomes more difficult to adjust to drastic temperature changes. Many seniors also have medical conditions or are taking medications that make it more difficult for the body to regulate its temperature.
As summer temperatures rise, it’s important to take steps to prevent heat stroke and exhaustion.
1. Stay Hydrated
The first and most important thing is to stay hydrated. Heat-related health problems often stem from dehydration. Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
If you plan to be outdoors during the day, whether running errands or going for a walk, bring a water bottle with you to stay hydrated while you’re out and about.
2. Wear the Right Clothes
Dress smartly when outdoors in the heat. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting and light-colored clothing with a wide-brimmed hat. A sunhat will protect your head, ears and shoulders from sun exposure while helping you stay cool.
Avoid wearing cotton. While comfortable, cotton will absorb sweat and hold the moisture against the skin. All of that extra moisture will only increase your body temperature.
It’s also important to avoid dark colors, as they absorb the sun’s heat. White and other light colors actually reflect the light and the heat to help you stay cool.
If possible, wear moisture-wicking, quick-drying clothing. You can often find this type of clothing in the same department you find workout clothing.
3. Stay Inside
If possible, stay indoors in the middle of the day when temperatures are the highest. The sun’s rays are the strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
If you must go outdoors during these hours, consider limiting your activities to minimize your time in the heat.
4. Take it Easy
Avoid doing anything strenuous during the hottest parts of the day. If you take daily walks in the park, consider going in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler.
Strenuous activity will only increase your chances of a heat stroke or exhaustion, so take it easy.
If you must be outdoors for an extended period of time, make sure that you take plenty of breaks to give your body a rest and to cool down. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.
5. Stay in Air-Conditioned Environments
If you’re outdoors and start feeling overheated, retreat to an air-conditioned environment, such as a shopping mall or public library.
Give yourself some time to cool down and re-hydrate before venturing outdoors again.
6. Cool Down
When you return home, consider taking a cool bath or shower to bring your body temperature back to normal.
If it’s not possible to take a cold shower, try applying an ice pack on your neck. You can also try freezing a washcloth and placing it on your neck if you feel overheated.
7. Cook Smartly
When summer temperatures rise, it’s important to do all that you can to keep your body cool. That means cooking smartly.
Avoid using the oven or stove to cook if possible. This will only make your home feel hotter. Grilling may be a better option, but be sure to wait until the evening when it’s much cooler.
8. Know the Warning Signs
Being able to recognize the signs of heat stroke and exhaustion can save your life. Getting indoors and cooling off at the first signs of heat-related health issues can help prevent them from escalating into a serious issue that requires immediate medical attention.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fast or weak pulse
- Fast and shallow breathing
Signs of Heat Stroke
- Extremely high body temperature (103F or higher)
- Red, hot and dry skin
- Throbbing headache
- Strong, rapid pulse
If you or someone you’re with experiences any signs of heat-related illness, get to a shady area immediately and take steps to cool down. Cool baths, ice packs and spraying with a garden hose can help bring the body temperature down immediately. Monitor the affected person’s body temperature. If efforts to cool down are not effective, seek medical attention immediately.
Do not wait to treat heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.