With the hot summer months in the Midwest, it is important to know the health risks that are associated with heat and sun for seniors. It is very important to check on seniors – loved ones, neighbors and friends – frequently in the summer months to ensure their safety during this time of year. Summertime should be a great time for all; it’s fun in the sun and time to enjoy the outdoor activities with friends and family.
It is important to note that seniors do not feel the heat the same as those who are younger. As we age, the ability to perspire decreases, making it harder to keep cool which increases risk of becoming overheated.
Naturally, our bodies work to control and maintain our body temperatures, when it is hot outside it causes our bodies to work even more to keep us cool. Certain medications can affect the way that seniors’ bodies cool down. This can be a dangerous problem. If you have an aging family member or work as a caregiver, it is important to know the safety tips as well as the symptoms of heat related illnesses to help everyone safely enjoy the summer.
The two most serious heat related illnesses for seniors are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is not life threatening; it results from a loss of bodily fluids from prolonged exposure to the heat. Symptoms include headache, low blood pressure, vomiting, fatigue, thirst, and increased body temperature. The second condition is heat stroke and this can be life threatening and requires immediate care. A heat stroke can occur when the body cannot cool itself. Risk can be increased by medical conditions such as high blood pressure, dehydration, and some medications. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, being disoriented, repaid heartbeat, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
Summer weather safety tips:
- Make sure seniors are drinking plenty of fluids, especially water to stay hydrated. Sports drinks are also helpful for rehydration.
- Avoid peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Dress for the hot weather including a wide brimmed hat, and light colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Use sunblock with SPF 30 or higher.
- Avoid the extreme heat by staying inside in the air conditioning. If air conditioning is not available, find seniors a place to go to stay cool such as a senior center, the movies or a friend or family member’s home.
- When outdoors try and find shaded areas when possible.
If you believe someone is suffering from a heat related medical condition, including dehydration, heat stroke or a heat exhaustion, please move them to a cool place or a shaded area, give them cool water, and call 911 immediately.
Take the time to check on seniors during hot temperatures. Enjoy the summer, stay safe and COOL!