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Summer Heat Safety for Seniors: How to Keep Cool in Your Golden Years

Healthcare | August 11, 2023

A happy older woman staying safe after learning hot weather tips for seniors.

It’s no surprise that a lot of people look forward to when the weather gets warm as thoughts of vacations, pools, and backyard barbecues come to mind. Of course, there’s also a serious problem with hot weather for a lot of people – it’s hot. While some people simply don’t like being warm, senior citizens have some more serious concerns.

Overheating is a serious issue for people of all ages, but it’s especially dangerous for older adults. According to the CDC, people aged 65 or older made up 36% of heat-related deaths, while hospitalizations increase with age.

While heat is a notable problem, it doesn’t mean that seniors can’t enjoy summer. Keep reading to find out how overheating can affect you, and what you can do to beat the heat in your golden years.

What Happens When Seniors Get Overheated?

Whether you’re hanging out in the sun or simply staying in a place that’s too hot, it’s important to stay cool. Overheating can lead to a variety of serious health problems, especially for aging adults. Potential heat-related illnesses and other problems include:

  • Heat cramps
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Heat rash
  • Sunburn
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat stroke
  • Heat edema (swelling of your ankles)

What Can Raise the Risk of Heat-Related Illnesses for Seniors?

In general, seniors are more prone to heat-related health problems than younger people. Your body isn’t able to adjust to extreme heat as you get older, making prevention especially important. However, there are other factors that can increase your risk of heat-related illnesses and other issues. These include:

  • Dehydration
  • Being either underweight or overweight
  • Certain health problems ranging from fevers to kidney, lung, and cardiovascular disease
  • Taking certain medications, such as sedatives, diuretics, and other drugs that make it more difficult for the body to cool down

Hot Weather Tips for Seniors

Now that you know the dangers of overheating, it’s time to learn how to protect yourself from hot weather. There are a variety of heat precautions for seniors depending on your situation, so the following tips can help you avoid overheating and enjoy summer.

Know the signs of heat illness

In order to prevent heat-related illnesses, it’s good to know how to spot them before they become a problem. Overheating and other similar issues are preventable if you take the right precautions, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared in case you start to feel the heat. Here are common symptoms of heat-related illnesses that you should look out for this summer.

  • High body temperature
  • Heavy sweating
  • Headache, dizziness, or nausea
  • Uncommonly fast or weak pulse
  • Warm, painful skin with red marks or blisters
  • Muscle pain or spasms
  • Fainting

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to act. Start by moving to a cool place, staying out of the sun, and drinking some water. If your symptoms are more severe, aren’t getting better, or are even getting worse, call a doctor or have someone take you to get medical help.

Check the weather ahead of time

It’s always good to plan ahead before you put yourself in hot water. Make sure to check the weather online or on TV to get an idea of just how hot and sunny it should be any given day. Simply knowing the temperature and humidity will help you prepare accordingly. You’ll also want to see how intense the sun will be that day. With enough info, you’ll be able to make better decisions about how you can stay cool during warm weather.

Dress for the heat

All outfits are not created equal for hot weather. Planning out what you wear to match the summer heat can help you stay cool and comfortable (not to mention safe) The following tips can help you choose the right clothing for your day out in the warm weather.

  • Opt for light-colored clothing instead of blacks or other dark tones that absorb more heat
  • Choose light-fitting clothing that hangs slightly off your body to create more airflow and limit how much sweat they absorb
  • Try moisture-wicking or absorbing clothing to keep sweat and heat from building on your skin
  • Pick out natural, more breathable fabrics like cotton over synthetic fibers
  • Wear a hat or some other head and neck protection if the sun is out
  • Use sunscreen

Stay hydrated

When in doubt, drink more water. Hydration is especially important for seniors because they’re more at risk for dehydration. According to the Cleveland Clinic, older adults simply have less water in their bodies than when they were younger. That lack of water is part of why 40% of seniors are chronically dehydrated

Dehydration is bad for a number of reasons, including overheating. Avoid caffeine and alcohol since they can make you thirstier. Make sure to drink plenty of water or other thirst-quenching beverages throughout the day, especially if you plan to be out in the summer heat. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty either – proactive hydration is a great way to regulate your temperature and protect yourself in the hot weather.

Avoid the extreme heat when possible

Sometimes the best way to beat the heat is to avoid it altogether. If the summer weather is going to be a bit too unbearable, don’t be afraid to change your plans. Don’t forget about humidity as well – that extra moisture can make lower temperatures feel worse. Either limiting your time outside or avoiding it altogether is sometimes the safest option.

Talk to your doctor about medications

It’s never a bad idea to talk to an expert. Certain medications can make your body more sensitive to the sun or heat. You’ll want to check with your doctor or some other expert to see if any of your medications may pose problems with the hot weather and what you can do to keep yourself safe.

Go where it’s cool

If the weather is too much to bear, that doesn’t mean it has to ruin your day. You can still go out and about, just plan on heading to places that won’t be a problem. A trip to the mall, movie theater, or some other indoor destination can be both fun and cool.

Of course, sometimes the outside isn’t the only place that’s too hot. Your home can also pose problems if you don’t have air conditioning or something else to combat that summer heat. Living in a hot environment isn’t ideal for older adults, so consider investing in an air-conditioning unit or visiting loved ones with AC to stay cool. 

If your home isn’t able to help you beat the heat, it may be time to find a new community that can. National Church Residences offers quality senior living options around the country and strives to help our residents enhance their quality of life. Use our online community finder to find a community that’s right for you.

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