In the heat of summer, a warm day can quickly become a health hazard. If your body becomes too hot, there may be a point where it can no longer regulate your temperature, resulting in dizziness and disorientation. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to overheating, which can be harmful – and even deadly. That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself from overheating, also known as hyperthermia. Follow this guide to heat safety for seniors to keep cool – and safe – in the summer.
Overheating isn’t just uncomfortable – it can be dangerous. According to the National Institutes of Health, hyperthermia is “an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body to deal with the heat coming from the environment.”
Rather than just being one type of illness, hyperthermia is a group of related illnesses all caused by overheating. People over the age of 50 are most at risk. According to the National Institute on Aging, related illnesses include:
Heat Exhaustion: This is typically one of the first signs of hyperthermia, and acts as a sort of warning to your body that it is getting too hot. Signs include thirstiness, dizziness, and feeling nauseous and uncoordinated. If you experience these symptoms, rest somewhere cool and drink fluids.
Heat Syncope: This illness presents as sudden dizziness after spending time in the heat. It can be treated by resting in a cool place, elevating your feet and drinking water.
Heat Cramps: Many people experience heat cramps after working hard or exercising. It is a painful tightening of your muscles that can be treated by cooling your body down and drinking water.
Heat Stroke: Having a heat stroke is a medical emergency. Signs include fainting, a sudden change in behavior and a body temperature over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately.
The heat can be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the summer months. A few protective measures can go a long way when taking care of yourself and your health. Here are a few tips to keep your body cool, whether you are inside or outside.
Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is important all the time, but especially when you’re exposed to heat. To make it more convenient, take a water bottle with you wherever you go to sip throughout the day. Many water bottles even come with a handle or carrying strap.
Dress Lightly: Another thing you can do to avoid overheating is to dress for the weather. This may mean dressing in layers so that you can shed them as the day becomes warmer. For instance, wear a short-sleeved T-shirt in the morning with a light jacket over it.
Keep Your Home Cool: It’s possible to experience heat-related illness indoors, especially if you are in a space that is not air-conditioned. Use fans to keep your home as cool as possible, and close curtains and blinds during the warmest part of the day.
Stay Indoors: During the heat of the afternoon, it’s a good idea to avoid spending too much time in the outdoor heat. Look for indoor activities where there is air conditioning available, such as visiting your local library or going to a movie.
When it comes to heat safety for seniors, it’s most important to listen to your body. You know what feels normal for you. If you begin to feel off or disoriented while in the heat, seek assistance immediately.
Getting outdoors can be a wonderful way to stay active and healthy, but it’s wise to use caution during the hottest summer months. This blog is not intended to be medical advice – if you have questions or concerns about heat-related illness, please speak with your doctor.
From fitness classes and walking trails to nutritious dining options, Advent Christian Village offers resources to help seniors maintain a healthy lifestyle all year long. Schedule a tour to learn more.