Summer 2022’s official arrival date—also called summer solstice—is June 21st. And there’s much to celebrate about the season: lush gardens, outdoor dinners, lakes and beaches—and plenty of sunshine. Just like everyone else, active seniors are eager to make the most of the warm and inviting days ahead.
Liberal use of sunscreen and bug spray help make all outdoor activities safer and more fun. It’s also wise—especially for older adults—to include an awareness of the effects of too much of the sun’s heat in your list of precautions.
According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), “Too much heat is not safe for anyone. It is even riskier if you are older or have health problems.” It’s a fact: Healthy older adults are more vulnerable than healthy younger adults to the effects of prolonged exposure to heat.
To help keep you safe and healthy in summer’s hot weather, we offer the following information. You can find more details by visiting the NIH’s National Institute on Aging website.
Hyperthermia and its effects
You may already be familiar with the term hypothermia, a condition that can be caused by cold temperatures. Prolonged exposure to summer’s heat can cause hyperthermia and one of these related conditions:
- Heat exhaustion, a sign that your body is unable to keep itself cool. Without proper treatment, this condition can progress to heat stroke.
Symptoms: dizziness, nausea, thirst, weakness, among others
Solution: Rest somewhere cool; stay hydrated.
- Heat cramps, often caused by exercise or heavy labor in hot weather.
Symptoms: tight muscles in stomach, arms, legs
Solution: Let your body cool down. Drink fluids—avoid alcohol or caffeine.
- Heat edema, caused by exposure to hot weather
Symptoms: swollen ankles and feet
Solution: Rest with legs elevated. If the swelling persists, call your doctor.
- Heat syncope, which can happen to anyone who is active in hot weather—but is more likely in people who take heart medication.
Symptoms: sudden dizziness, feeling faint
Solution: Rest in a cool spot with legs elevated and drink water to dispel the feeling of dizziness.
The most serious form of hyperthermia is heat stroke, which is a true medical emergency. According to the NIH, “Older people living in homes or apartments without air conditioning or fans are at most risk. People who become dehydrated or those with chronic diseases or alcoholism are also at most risk.” If you or someone you know exhibits symptoms of heat stroke, seek immediate medical intervention.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Fainting or unconsciousness
- Behavior changes such as confusion, agitation, staggering
- Body temperature greater than 104°F
- Dry skin and a strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse
- Absence of sweat, despite the heat
Lowering your risk of hyperthermia
There are ways to help ensure your enjoyment of the summer months doesn’t result in hyperthermia. The NIH suggests the following safety measures:
- Stay hydrated—unless your physician has advised you otherwise. Water and fruit and vegetable juices are best; drinks with alcohol and caffeine aren’t as effective.
- Dress for the weather by wearing natural fabrics, like cotton which is cooler than synthetic materials
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activity when temperature and humidity are high.
The Gatesworth is eager to help our active-senior residents find ways to enjoy all that a St. Louis summer has to offer. And we’re just as eager to help residents live safe and healthy lives. Let’s watch out for one another during hot weather. That is, after all, what community is all about. To learn more about wellness at The Gatesworth, please contact us at 314-993-0111.