After a long winter indoors many of us are excited to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine! Nevertheless, remembering the importance of Summer Safety is especially important as we age. Three risks are particularly accentuated for the elderly; Dehydration, Heat Stroke and Sun Burn. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you head outside in the coming months:
Dehydration: Remember that as we get older, our body’s fluid reserve decrease, our ability to conserve water is reduced and your thirst sense becomes less acute. These problems can be worsened by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia, and by the use of certain medications.
Heat Stroke: Dr. De Leon, author of “Parkinson’s Diva” writes, “Heat stroke remains one of the leading causes of preventable deaths and hospitalizations in this country.” Heat Stroke occurs when the body’s temperature-regulating mechanism is over-stressed due to very high temperatures. Anyone can fall victim to Heat Stroke but the elderly are especially vulnerable. Dr. De Leon continues, “as we age we tend to adjust slower to heat. Many patients with chronic progressive neurological disorders have an already defective autoimmune system thus making them more vulnerable to rapid changes in temperature.”
Sun Burn: Most of us have experienced at least one serious sun burn in our lives. It’s painful and unpleasant but for the elderly, the risk is increased! A study published by Professor Arne Akbar in the British Journal of Experimental Medicine. This study found that older people are more at risk of skin cancer and infection because their skin is unable to mobilize the immune system to defend itself.
So what to we do about these dangers?
Here are some safety tips:
- Consider buying a water bottle so you can keep water close at all times and be drinking it through the day
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can both be dehydrating
- Remember that juice, milk and other healthy drinks will also help keep you hydrated
- If fear of being up to the bathroom at night is discouraging you from drinking, try to drink more during the day and limit drinking before bed.
- Drink plenty of cool (not cold) water
- Take a cool shower or sponge bath
- Wear light clothing
- Get to an airconditioned place if possible
- Avoid strenuous work during the hottest parts of the day
- The easiest thing to do is avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm when the ultraviolet rays from the sun are the strongest.
- Be aware if any of your medications cause increased sensitivity to the sun
- Use an SPF of 15 or greater
- Re-Apply ever two hours
- Wear protective clothing