The US Center For Disease Control (CDC)
estimates that every year around 300 people in the US die from heat related ailments. In addition thousands of American citizens suffer from dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Summer draws people, including seniors, outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and outdoor activities with family and friends. Senior citizens are more susceptible to the effects of heat as their bodies return to normal slowly and their bodies cooling mechanism is not as efficient as younger people. Hence seniors should be well aware of the health problems related to summer heat and the preventive and safety steps that they should take to avoid these problems.
Here we will discuss some important summer safety tips for seniors. The first thing to know is that the faster you move the faster your body gets heated up. Hence seniors should take it slow in the summer, especially when it is hot. All outdoor activities should be planned for early mornings when it is cooler. As mush as possible, use the shaded areas under trees or covered porches. If possible air conditioning should be used when it is very hot and fans are not enough. If air conditioning is not available at home consider visiting public places like shopping malls, libraries, etc., that have air conditioning.
Proper ventilation is essential so that the temperature and humidity do not become very high. In places where there are no fans or air conditioning it may be dangerous if temperature rises above 90 Ã?Â°F. Some seniors prefer to keep windows closed for security reasons even when cool breeze is blowing. This problem can be easily solved by installing safety latches for windows so that they cannot be opened from outside but will allow air to enter. They are inexpensive and bought at local hardware stores.
Dehydration from the body accelerates during the summer months and some medications that have loss of fluid and electrolyte from the body, as side effects, can prove dangerous. It has been found that some diuretics, antibiotics and other medications can slow down the body’s natural capacity to control body temperature. Seniors as well as others should always check with their doctors and pharmacists to find out if the medications prescribed have any such side effects. Those seniors who are on low carbohydrate diets should be careful and take a lot of fluids, as the extra protein in their diets can cause the body to get heated up quickly. As such everyone should also take extra fluids during summer months to compensate for dehydration.
Seniors should plan ahead for outings. Every one, especially seniors, should wear light colored, loose fitting, cool clothing (preferably cotton) and use head coverings like hats or caps. As the seniors skin is sensitive they should use high SPF sun blocks (30+) and avoid direct sun as much as possible by seeking out shaded spots. Seniors should avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages as much as possible as they accelerate dehydration. Drinking just plain water may not be adequate as the body also loses sodium and potassium salts through sweating. The popular sports drinks can be used for this purpose or you can drink a home made one.
To make a homemade rehydration drink mix half teaspoon table salt, 3-4 tablespoons sugar, half teaspoon baking soda and a quarter teaspoon Salt Lite or other salt substitute in a quart (950 ml) water. This home made drink is not suitable for children under 12. Beware of exhaustion symptoms which include mild nausea, lightheadedness, faintheadedness, vomiting, clammy or cold hands and excessive sweating. The symptoms of heat stroke include strong pulse, body temperature above 104 Ã?Â°F, hot, dry skin and mental confusion. Contact your local medical emergency team or 911 immediately when heat stroke symptoms are detected as the patient needs immediate medical attention. In the meanwhile keep giving rehydrating fluids. These summer safety tips for senior citizens can help prevent most heat related health problems faced by them.