senior woman with heat exhaustionWhen spring weather arrives, many of us are eager to get outside and take part in our favorite activities. From hiking to gardening and shopping at the outdoor mall, everyone should find an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. While we all should pay attention to high temperatures and other potentially dangerous weather conditions, seniors need to be especially aware of the health effects of warm weather.

What tips should seniors keep in mind to stay safe in spring and summer weather?

1. Stay Hydrated

As we age, the effects of sun exposure become more serious. When you’re out in the hot sun for too long without fluids, you may become dehydrated. Younger people may know when it’s time for a drink of water, but older individuals slowly lose the ability to feel thirst.

To combat sudden dehydration, seniors should always have a water bottle on-hand while spending time outdoors. As a rule of thumb, limit outdoor activities to the early morning or sundown when the temperatures are cooler.

2. Limit Sun Exposure

Protection from the sun’s dangerous UV rays is important for people of all ages, but especially for seniors. Older individuals, who have had more lifetime sun exposure than younger adults, should never go outside without sunscreen. With age, the skin’s defenses against the harmful effects of UV rays diminish. Seniors should limit their sun exposure when the rays are at their strongest, between 10am and 4pm.

In addition to combatting sunburns, seniors should wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses to protect their eyes. Vision loss increases with age and the sun can be a serious eye irritant.

3. Avoid Heat-Related Illness

Seniors have an increased risk of developing heat-related illnesses, the most common being heat stroke, exhaustion and cramps:

  • Heat Stroke: When long-term exposure to the sun prevents the body from cooling itself off.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Often related to strenuous activity in hot weather, the body overheats.
  • Heat Cramps: These muscle spasms occur when the body loses too much salt and water.

When your aging loved ones head outside, make sure they dress appropriately. Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing will provide some breathing room and reflect less sunshine. Also, have plenty of fluids on-hand and know the signs of heat-related illness, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pale or flushed skin

Avon Health Center is a local resource for senior health and living. If you have a question about skilled nursing, please contact us for more information today!