Summer’s here. And even with the challenges of COVID-19, there are safe ways to gather for small cookouts, enjoy family vacations or plan a day at the beach. Summer is wonderful for outdoor fun in the warm weather, but these activities can bring an element of danger if certain safeguards are not followed. With a recent study from the University of Chicago Medical Center finding that 40% of heat related casualties are those over the age of 65, it’s important to be vigilant and safe, so you can enjoy yourself worry free
One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy in the heat is to stay hydrated. As we grow older, our bodies start to lose the ability to conserve liquids. Sweating in the heat and humidity increases the risk of dehydration, so it’s crucial to be vigilant of your water intake. Keep water on hand, and make sure you bring extra for long drives or walks.
As the temperature rises, it’s important to stay cool. Don’t overexert yourself on exceptionally hot days. Try to stay in air conditioning, sit in front of a fan, or take a tepid bath. Even a wrung out wet towel on your neck can help bring your body temperature down. If you don’t have an air conditioner and aren’t in the position to purchase a new one, reach out to Greater Lynn Senior Services. They have funds that can help you or the senior you're caring for get one. Call them at (781) 599-0110. If you are in a different area, you can find your local area agency on aging here.
If you are going to be outside in the summer, even if it’s just doing yard work or gardening, try to stay connected and check-in with a family member or friend to let them know you’ll be outside. It’s important that they try to stay in touch and check on you when the mercury rises.
Speaking of staying connected, it’s a good idea to try to meet and befriend some neighbors. Try to see if a younger neighbor (or their child) can check on you occasionally to make sure everything’s OK. Not only is this a good way to stay safe, but it’s also a great way to connect and make new friendships!
As you spend more time out in the sun, make sure you dress appropriately. Wear loose, light colored clothing. When deciding on your summer wardrobe, choose fabrics that are breathable and lightweight, such as cotton. Add a baseball hat or wide brimmed sun hat and comfortable shoes, and you’re ready to rock your perfect summer outfit. While you’re picking an outfit, be sure to include a pair of sunglasses. Sun exposure can irritate eyes and affect your vision, so it’s a wise idea to wear shades.
In addition to your summer clothes, make sure you wear sunscreen. Try to find one with an SPF of 30 or higher. Read the instructions to see how often you should re-apply. If you are swimming, attempt to reapply more often.
Choose a safe time to get out in the sun. Try to avoid times of peak sun. If you decide to go outside, try to go early in the morning, or at dusk. According to the American Skin Association, the sun’s rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm. They also recommend following the rule ‘short shadow, seek shade,’ as a good way to determine the intensity and angle of the sun.
Wanting to exercise outside or enjoy the outdoors in the summer? Be smart. Dress appropriately as mentioned before. Take frequent breaks. If you’re going hiking, or for a walk, pack extra waters. Find out where there will be benches you can sit and relax or find a shady spot under a tree. If you’re going to the beach, consider bringing a nice beach umbrella or tent to take shelter from the sun. There are also great mini battery-operated fans, cooling towels, and misting spray bottles you can purchase online or in stores to take along.
Even if one takes all precaution to stay safe, it is still important to know the signs of dehydration and/or heat stroke. According to John Hopkins Medicine, some signs of dehydration include:
● Urinating less frequently
● Dry Skin
● Dry Mouth
● Increased heart rate/breathing
Signs of heat stroke include:
● High body temperature
● Loss of consciousness
If you or a loved one are exhibiting any of these signs, please seek medical help immediately.
Getting out in the summer is a great way to have fun if you do so safely and follow some of these suggestions. There’s a whole world out there to explore and enjoy!