People of all ages should be careful during the summer to stay hydrated and protected from the sun’s damaging rays, but seniors should be especially mindful.    

“People who are age 65 or older and those with chronic or even terminal medical conditions may be prone to heat-related health problems,” according to Tammy Furr, MSN, RN, CHPN, Director of Clinical Education, Kindred at Home. “An acute illness or infection, obesity and alcohol consumption may also affect how your body responds to heat. Heat and dehydration can make seniors more prone to dizziness and falls.”

5 Summer Dangers Specific to Seniors 600

The most common signs of dehydration are:

  • Thirst
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Poor skin elasticity

If you have an illness that affects your breathing, you may be even more sensitive to heat and should stay in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible. If you do not have air conditioning in your home, it’s best to make sure you have a friend, family member or home health nurse check on you frequently. You can also explore local resources for getting government assistance that provides air conditioners or alternative living arrangements during times of high heat.

Wear loose, lightweight clothing, and restrict your outdoor activities to the early morning or later evening when temperatures are cooler.

“Make sure to use sunscreen when outside to prevent sunburn, and be aware of humidity advisories, as you may need to stay indoors on days when the humidity is high,” Furr said.

Heat Exhaustion

Keeping hydrated on a regular basis is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself in the heat. In fact, you should drink fluids even when you’re not thirsty since thirst can be an indication that you waited too long to hydrate.

The mild form of heat-related illness, heat exhaustion, can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Warning signs vary but may include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Pale or cold skin
  • Muscle Cramps or headache
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fast pulse and breathing

Heat Stroke

The most serious heat-related illness is heat stroke. It occurs when the body cannot control its temperature and is unable to cool down. Body temperatures can rise to 106°F or higher within 15 minutes. It should come as no surprise that heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Warning signs vary but may include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

Any indication of heat stroke should be considered a medical emergency, and you should seek immediate medical attention.

Danger at Pools

Pools are great for cooling off, but can be a drowning hazard at any time, especially for seniors who have recently experienced a loss in strength or mobility. Be mindful of staying in water where you can keep your feet underneath you, and hold on to the side if you feel unbalanced. Most importantly, never swim alone.

Home maintenance

While you take pride in keeping your home looking nice, weeding, cleaning gutters and trimming trees can be especially dangerous in the heat, when longer periods of time outdoors put you at risk for heat related illness. Similar to the pool, if you have balance issues, bending over to weed, or climbing up to clean gutters and trim trees can pose great risks of falling. 

Insect bites

No one likes insect bites that are painful or itchy, but for seniors, prompt care for poisonous bites is even more important as allergic reactions may become more difficult to stabilize. If you have a bite that looks odd or you notice any unusual symptoms, seek medical attention.

You can also protect yourself by wearing closed-toe shoes and loose, light colored clothing that covers skin well. Avoid any scented lotions or perfumes, and keep food or beverages covered to keep bugs away. If you live in an area with a high concentration of bugs, you can use bug spray in small amounts, but try not to inhale it, and keep it far away from your face, open wounds and rashes.

By taking precautions this summer, like the five described above to prevent temperature-related illness, you will reduce your risks of falling, passing out, or ending up in the hospital. Let us know which precautions you are taking to stay safe and cool this summer in the comments below.

By Craig Layne