Winter usually takes the spotlight when it comes to seasonal senior safety. It’s easy to appreciate why, as hypothermia, frostbite, icy walkways, and the flu all disproportionately affect the elderly.
But the warmer months bring their own host of oftentimes overlooked senior safety hazards. Now that the weather is becoming more hospitable, it’s a good time to review some of the ways you or a loved one can stay safer this summer!
Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s temperature exceeds a safe level – typically 104° F, although body temperatures lower than that may still cause adverse health effects. In addition to discomfort, someone suffering from hyperthermia may experience dizziness, confusion, nausea, fatigue, cramps, swelling, headache and extreme thirst.
Most people who die from hyperthermia are over the age of 50. Seniors are at higher risk of experiencing hyperthermia due to a number of reasons, including less efficient sweat glands, high blood pressure and preexisting heart and lung conditions. If a senior begins to experience or show any signs of hyperthermia, it is recommended that they cease physical activity, move to a cooler location and have something to drink. Consult a doctor if symptoms of hyperthermia persist!
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it absorbs. Many of its symptoms overlap with those of hyperthermia, and include dizziness, confusion, fatigue and extreme thirst, as well as infrequent urination and dark-colored urine. Serious symptoms of dehydration include low blood pressure, difficulty walking, fast breathing, bloating and convulsions.
Seniors are at greater risk of dehydration than any other age group. This is largely because older adults naturally have less water in their bodies, but it also stems from their reduced sensitivity to thirst and decreased kidney efficiency. Severe dehydration may cause urinary tract infections, kidney stones, blood clots and seizures, so make certain to stay cool and drink plenty of water this summer – even when you are not thirsty!
Avoid Prolonged Sun Exposure
It takes as few as 15 minutes to experience sun poisoning. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight may also contribute to the formation of cataracts, and just a single severe sunburn can significantly increase the risk of developing melanoma. Prolonged sun exposure also carries an increased risk of hyperthermia and dehydration.
Skin becomes more fragile and vulnerable to the effects of prolonged sun exposure with age. In addition to minimizing their contact with sunlight, it is also advisable for seniors to wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing, as well as sunscreen with a SPF no less than 30. Applying moisturizer is also recommended, as skin also becomes more susceptible to dryness with age.
Check Whether Your Medications May Increase Heat or Sun Sensitivity
Several medications may increase sensitivity to sun and heat, including those prescribed to treat high blood pressure, overactive bladder and Parkinson’s. Even over-the-counter drugs may increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, including ibuprofen, St. John’s wort and allergy medications such as Benadryl and Nytol.
Note that several medications can also contribute to dehydration. Prescription laxatives and diuretics both commonly increase the risk of dehydration, as can medications which are prescribed as part of a larger cancer treatment program.
If you have recently begun taking a new medication and noticed that your tolerances to heat and sun seem lower than usual, then it is highly advisable to consult your doctor. Pharmacology is too exact a science to risk making layman assumptions!
Would you like to know more about how Morgan Lane Village helps our residents stay safe and healthy all year round? Then we welcome you to contact our assisted living community in Tea, South Dakota today!