It's gotten so hot recently! For seniors who have a higher sensitivity to heat, a little more caution needs to be exercised when it comes to making plans in the sun. As long as you’re careful and stick to a few main safety tips, you can enjoy many summer activities without having to worry!
Stay hydrated. The standard suggestion is to aim to drink 6-8 cups of water a day. If you intend to spend time out in the sun, you may want to aim even higher to avoid dehydration. Invest in a water bottle or two that it’s easy to take along on your jaunts outside and challenge yourself to finish it before you get home. Don’t just depend on your body to tell you when you’re thirsty. One of the many small frustrations of aging is that seniors become less aware of their thirst. Be proactive in staying hydrated and make sure it’s water, sports drinks or juice that you’re drinking – sodas, coffee, and especially alcohol won’t work as good alternatives for hydration.
Don’t stay out for too long. If you live somewhere where it gets really hot (like Arkansas!), you should keep your plans for outdoor activities reasonably short. Don’t plan to spend the whole day out in the sun – stick to a couple of hours and then head inside for a break. You don’t always feel the effect the sun is having on you in the moment, but it can build to something dangerous if you’re not careful to temper the time you spend outside on hot days.
Check the forecast before you go out. You don’t want to be surprised on a 104° day! Make sure you know what to expect of the weather before you go out so you can dress appropriately and plan your day accordingly. Don’t risk being stuck on a hike far from your car when record temperatures hit in the afternoon. When the heat starts to get extreme, make sure your plans give you an easy out from the outdoors so you can take breaks and cool off.
Keep sunscreen where it’s easily accessible and you’ll remember to use it. If you carry a purse, keep your sunscreen in it at all times. If you don’t, stick some in your car or anywhere else you can think of where you’re likely to have it when you need it. If you think you might forget to re-apply when needed, set yourself an alarm, pretty much all phones have that option these days.
Check the side effects of your prescriptions. Some medications make people more sensitive to the sun. Make sure you know if your prescriptions mean you need to take extra precautions. It probably won’t mean you have to forego outdoor activities, just that you’ll need to make extra sure to follow some of the other suggestions on this list to avoid problems.
Use your air conditioning if you have it. Summer heat waves can have serious consequences for seniors. Making sure you’re reasonably comfortable and safe in your own home is worth the splurge. If you don’t have an air conditioner, consider buying one. If you don’t have A/C in your home and can’t find a way to afford it, take trips during the hottest part of the day to the mall, the movies, or the closest library. You can take advantage of their A/C for a little while before heading back home when the day starts to cool down.
Know the early warning signs of heat-related illnesses. Hopefully these tips can help keep you from encountering a heat-related illness, but you should still be prepared for the worst just in case. Review the symptoms for dehydration, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and more here. If you suspect you’re experiencing any of these, don’t be shy about speaking up and insisting on water, shade, or some time inside in air conditioning. It’s better than a trip to the emergency room.