Summer is a time for outdoor activities and fun in the sun. However, if you’re 65 or older, you’re at an increased risk for dehydration and overheating. Keep yourself safe by drinking plenty of fluids and staying cool.
Why Seniors Are at Greater Risk During the Summer
Our sense of thirst decreases with age, so you may not notice you need a drink until you’ve become dehydrated. A lack of fluid affects your circulation and sweat production, making it difficult for you to regulate your internal body temperature.
Certain chronic health conditions and medication also affect your body’s ability to adjust your temperature, making you more sensitive to the summer’s heat. It’s important to talk with your doctor about medication side effects that impact hydration, dizziness and blood pressure.
High temperatures, humidity and physical activity raise your core body temperature, putting you at risk of heat-induced issues.
Health problems caused by overexposure to heat include:
Heatstroke: This condition occurs when your body overheats, causing your temperature-regulating system to fail. It can last for several days or weeks and may lead to permanent damage to your heart, brain, muscles and kidneys if left untreated. Symptoms include high body temperature, nausea or vomiting, headaches, dizziness, disorientation or confusion, rapid breathing and increased heart rate.
Heat exhaustion: This issue is characterized by dehydration due to your body’s loss of water and salt. It’s caused by extreme heat exposure and excessive sweating without fluid to replace it. Heat exhaustion symptoms may include the presence of goosebumps even in high heat, heavy sweating, faintness or dizziness, weak or rapid pulse, low blood pressure, muscle cramps, nausea and headache.
Heat cramps: These painful muscle spasms are also caused by a significant loss of fluid and salt in the body. They can occur during exercise or intense sweating in high heat. If you have heat cramps, you may experience muscle pain or spasms, flushed skin, fever and excessive sweating.
Tips to Stay Hydrated and Cool
- Drink water throughout the day even if you don’t feel thirsty. Have a few glasses of water with each meal and carry a water bottle with you when you go outside.
- Do chores and other outdoor activities before peak sun hours, which are usually from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you plan to stay outside, limit your exposure to one to two hours at a time.
- Wear light-colored, breathable layers of clothing and avoid dark colors like black, grey and navy.
- Take plenty of breaks from the outdoors and cool yourself down. Apply a cool, damp cloth to your face, neck and arms. You can also soak your feet in cool water or take a cold shower or bath.
- Close your blinds or curtains during peak sun hours to keep your home cool and maintain the internal temperature with air conditioning and fans.
- Eat cool foods like sandwiches, salads, popsicles, smoothies and frozen fruits.