As we enter the summer, people are enjoying numerous outdoor activities, from hiking, to swimming, to lounging on the beach. But despite the limitless fun to be soaked up during these warm months, it is critical to take some precautions to stay safe in the sun.

Even though they may feel young at heart (especially when chasing grandchildren!), older adults are more vulnerable to the heat. In some areas of the county–including in popular retirement community spots like Florida and Arizona–summertime temperatures can easily surpass 100 degrees. When the mercury gets that high, the two biggest concerns for seniors are heat exhaustion and heat stroke–both of which can be life-threatening–so it is important to know the signs to look for.

Heat exhaustion symptoms:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Heavy sweating
  • Nausea
  • Skin that is pale and cool
  • Weakness

Heat stroke symptoms:

  • Hot, dry, and red skin
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature of 103 degrees or more
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat

If you experience these symptoms, or see someone else who is, call 911 immediately. Try to cool the person down with water, ice, and air conditioning/shade until paramedics arrive.

In addition to concerns about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, high summer temps can also exacerbate existing health issues in older people such as heart disease and COPD. For all seniors, and especially those with other health problems, it is crucial to stay well-hydrated with water or other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages. Cool off in shaded areas, or take a break from outdoor summertime fun with a trip inside to cool down in the air conditioning. (And as always, don’t forget the SPF 30+ sunscreen!)

Also remember, if you have a loved one or neighbor who is confined to their home, be sure to check that they have cool air in their home and are drinking enough fluids to stay well-hydrated.

> Related blog post: Adult Swim: Study Finds Senior Swimmers Less Likely to Experience Falls


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