In the dog days of summer, we’re all begging for a little break from the heat and humidity. Temperatures in the high 80s are forecasted to continue throughout the month.
For most people, the summer heat is a mild inconvenience. However, older adults can sometimes be more vulnerable to extreme temperatures, putting them at higher risk for heat stroke, the most serious and potentially fatal form of heat illness.
By taking precautions, you can help yourself or a loved one stay safe from heat stroke.
Dress to stay cool
The summer heat may force you to give up your favorite pair of jeans.
Opt instead for loose-fitting, light-colored, breathable clothing that will keep you as cool as possible.
Clothes made from cotton or other natural fabrics are generally cooler and more breathable than synthetic fabrics. Wear a wide-brimmed hat outdoors, and don’t forget your sunglasses.
Keep your environment cool
Air conditioning may seem like a luxury, especially in older homes. However, it is extremely effective at keeping a kupuna’s body temperature at a safe level.
Older adults may want to invest in a portable or window air conditioner. If air conditioning isn’t a possibility, try installing solar curtains, which are designed to block sunlight and keep a house cooler. Stay on the lower levels of the home if possible, avoiding the hotter, stuffier second floor and attic.
If all else fails, head out. Visit a senior center, shopping mall, library or other facility that has air conditioning. Heat can be a fun excuse to get out of the house.
Active seniors should take care to avoid exercising outside during the hottest part of the day.
If you enjoy walking, running, gardening or other outdoor activities, exercise in the morning or late afternoon when the temperature is a bit cooler. Or, during the summer months, go swimming, or invest in a membership at a gym with air conditioning.
Older adults may become less aware of their thirst, so it’s important to actively drink plenty of liquids throughout the day to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Eight glasses of water per day is recommended as a guide, but if you’re especially active or sweating excessively due to the heat, you’ll need to drink more fluids than usual. Make sure you’re drinking some liquids with salt and potassium (juice or sports drinks are a good option) to replace much-needed electrolytes lost in perspiration. Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine as they can contribute to dehydration.
Know the signs
A person with heat illness may experience nausea, headaches, confusion, delirium, weakness or loss of consciousness.
Symptoms of heat stroke include a high body temperature of 104 degrees or higher, a racing pulse and skin that is hot and dry to the touch with no perspiration. Call 911 immediately if you or your loved one experiences these serious symptoms. Heat stroke can cause organ damage, seizures, coma and even death if left untreated.
Rest assured, the summer heat will soon fade to more moderate temperatures. Until then, take care to stay cool while you enjoy the final days of summer.