senior woman walking outsideWith summer right around the corner, everyone is eager to spend more time outside. However, outdoor environments may present certain challenges for older adults. High temperatures, uneven walkways and exposure to pollen are just a few things to watch out for when enjoying the fresh air.

Before heading outside to experience nature with a senior loved one, it’s important to keep these outdoor safety tips in mind.

Always Be Prepared

Preparation is key! Especially when visiting a new place, it’s important to get familiar with your surroundings. If there are divots in the grass or a large number of steps to climb, fall risks increase.

In the event of a fall or another accident, having an emergency aid kit is essential. A few items to keep on-hand include bandages, antiseptic ointment, over-the-counter medications, water and hand sanitizer.

Checking the weather forecast is another way to prepare for a day outside. Avoid going outdoors if the weather calls for excess humidity, intense winds or a thunderstorm.

Stay Protected from the Sun

While the sun shines year-round, UV intensity tends to be highest in the summer months. As such, it’s especially important for seniors to protect their skin during this season.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, our skin loses fat, water content and thins with age, allowing UV light to penetrate more deeply. After years of sun exposure, older adults are at greater risk for developing skin cancer. Using SPF 30 sunscreen or higher should be your first defense against the sun’s rays.

To combat the effects of sun exposure, seniors should cover as much skin as possible before spending time outdoors. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and thin, long sleeve shirts in light colors are all good options.

Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), it can be more difficult for seniors to adjust to warmer temperatures due to certain medications or chronic illnesses that could affect their body temperature.

To avoid heat exhaustion, heat stroke or dehydration, stay in shaded areas with less sun exposure. Be sure to have enough water to last throughout your time spent outdoors. It’s also important to drink water before and after being outside to replenish lost electrolytes.

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious medical conditions, especially for seniors. According to the University of Chicago Medical Center, 40 percent of heat-related fatalities in the US affect people over 65.

A warning sign your body can no longer keep itself cool, symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Cramping
  • Fast breathing or pulse
  • Extreme thirst

Heat stroke occurs when the body’s internal temperature reaches over 103 degrees. Watch out for these symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chills while sweating
  • Dry or slightly moist skin
  • Racing heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting

For more information regarding senior safety, contact our experienced staff at Avon Health Center today.