Summer safety tips for seniors

As the weather heats up, there are few extra safety measures that we need to start thinking about.

As we get older the effect of heat can become more pronounced. While some measures, such as keeping cool and staying safe in the sun, may seem obvious, there could be others, like the effect of heat on our medication, that we might not have thought about.

Hydration

As we age, there is a reduction in the amount of sweat produced because we lose our ability to conserve water in our bodies. We also can become less aware of the sensation of thirst and have difficulty adjusting to temperature changes.

Dehydration can lead to several serious complications, such as heat exhaustion/heat stroke, hyperthermia or increased risk of a fall.

Some medications, such as diuretics or cardiac medications, can make a person more prone to dehydration. Or someone may avoid drinking water because of the effort it takes to get up and go to the bathroom, especially if they use a walker or are in a wheelchair. However, it is so important to drink water often. When possible, drink the occasional sweat replacement product like Gatorade (that contains salt and potassium) to replace water you lose during the summer.

Medication safety

Check with your GP to make sure any medications you are on won’t be affected by higher temperatures – especially if you don’t have air conditioning in your home. Some medications are less effective if stored at temperatures higher than room temperature (approximately 25 degrees Celsius).

Sun safety and keeping cool

When it’s warm out, some people find natural fabrics (such as cotton) to be cooler than synthetic fibres. Your summer wardrobe should include light-coloured and loose-fitting clothes to help feel cooler and more comfortable. When outside it’s important to wear sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

Even small increases in temperature can interfere with chronic medical conditions. So, on hot days seek out airconditioned spaces.

With our bodies becoming more susceptible to heatstroke as we age, it’s important to know the signs:

  • Body temperature greater than 40 degrees
  • A change in behaviour, such as acting confused, agitated or aggressive
  • Dry, flushed skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Heavy breathing or a rapid pulse
  • Not sweating, even if it’s hot outside
  • Fainting

If you (or an elderly loved one) start to feel any of these symptoms, ask for medical help and then get out of the heat, lie down and place ice packs on your body.

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