While air conditioning might be a great comfort, it can be hard to resist going outside during summer, even if it's hot. After all, everything's better when the sun is shining and there's a nice breeze in the air, especially for outdoor events and activities. Whether sitting on a patio during the afternoon reading a book or venturing to the beach with family, the outdoors in summer is really the place to be.
However, there are certain precautions seniors should take before heading outside. Heat and summer conditions often affect people more severely in older age, making it important for those living in a retirement community to plan ahead for outside activities and events. Yet there's no reason to avoid a weekend walk through the arboretum with other residents or sacrifice other types of recreation. All it takes is some preparation for the weather you'll likely face. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
The number one thing to keep in mind for seniors—and, really, anyone in the summer outdoors—is to keep hydrated. It's highly important to regularly drink water, as well as have some on hand: You don't want to ever be caught off guard without a nearby source. This is a point to reinforce because seniors may not always be aware of thirst, or actively feel the need to drink water. A decrease in thirst is commonly associated with older age, but it certainly doesn't mean the body is in any less need of water to maintain healthy and functioning. Dehydration is a big risk during the summer, but also largely preventable.
Become familiar the signs of heat-related illness
Being prepared means being knowledgeable about what problems summer heat can cause. Identifying symptoms of a heat-related illness means getting care before the issue gets worse. States across the nation are all known to see the mercury rise, so no-one is immune to heat disease in the summer, even if they believe they aren't at risk.
In reality, there are a variety of troublesome and dangerous conditions the heat can create. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash. Heat stroke can be life-threatening; the CDC said particular signs to look for include:
- A body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- Fast, strong pulse.
- Confusion and dizziness.
- Losing consciousness.
Some of the symptoms for lesser conditions to look for are:
- Heat exhaustion: Headache, nausea, weak pulse.
- Heat cramps: Heavy sweating and muscle pains.
- Sunburn and heat rash: Blistering or red skin.
Upon experiencing any of these symptoms, the CDC recommends first moving to a cool place and then calling 911 if needed. Placing cool towels on the forehead or arms can also help lower body temperature.
Know your limits
While there's much fun to be had outdoors in the summer, seniors have to know their limits to being in the sun. The longer the exposure to heat, the greater the risks become, even if just tending to a garden. Part of enjoying the summer is setting reasonable limits to the amount of sun that can be endured, which may be influenced by geography. If you or a family member live in the Southwest, then it's no surprise to see the thermostat normally register triple digits. If you know that it's going to be hot, then plan to spend only so much time outdoors. Either set an alarm or keep a watch with you and be sure to check the forecast. If it's going to be 10 degrees hotter at 2 p.m. than it is as noon, that's something that must be accounted for.
Always bring sunscreen
Sunscreen is a handy product to have with you wherever you go in summer. It's not just for the beach as the sun shines everywhere. For seniors living at a retirement community, it's common to go on outings like to a baseball game. Not only are a hat and sunglasses standard wear at the ballpark, but so too is sunscreen. Baseball games can stretch for three hours, and while you'll have ready access to water and food, you might not get a reprieve from the sun, especially if in the bleachers. Make sure to apply sun screen every third inning and you'll rest easy knowing a day at that park won't lead to painful sunburn later on.
There's so much to do in the summer, and those living in a retirement community have all the time to enjoy it. Just remember to pay attention to the weather outside and take steps to ensure hydration so you can beat the heat.
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