We all love when summer rolls in: warm breezes, picnics, walks in the woods,boating, swimming, vacations, etc. (sounds like a singles ad doesn’t it?). However, with all this summertime fun comes the very real danger of hyperthermia – an illness resulting from being too hot for too long.
Some of the symptoms of hyperthermia are:
- Swelling of the ankles and feet.
- Cramping of the legs, arms, or stomach.
- Nausea and extreme sweating.
Our bodies work pretty well at maintaining a reasonable temperature by producing sweat when we are too warm. The sweat then lies on the skin, evaporates, and cools the surface of our skin, keeping our body temperature where it should be. Yet, for the old, this “thermostat” may not work as effectively for various reasons – medications being taken (i.e., beta blockers, diuretics, etc.), preexisting heart or respiratory conditions, being overweight, having a diet low in salt, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, and being in poor physical condition.
There are many things that we can do to assist our care recipients with reducing their risk for hyperthermia or heat stroke:
- Avoid being outside at the hottest times of the day – 11am to 3pm.
- Drink plenty of water or fruit juices (be careful with the sugar in fruit juices if your CR is diabetic and avoid alcohol and caffeine).
- Use SPF 15 or higher (our family uses SPF 45).
- Use air-conditioning. If no air-conditioning is available, open windows when the temperature has dropped (evening hours).
- Cover windows that are in direct sunlight/heat.
- Don’t overdo exercise – and, exercise in the early morning or evening when it is cooler.
- Dress properly: covering up if your skin is sensitive to burning (use light colored clothing to reflect the sun).
- Ask neighbors and friends to keep a watchful eye on the elderly friends.
- Exercise in malls that are air-conditioned.
- Use common sense in all situations.
Staying healthy in the summer is a matter of practical choices – if you make those choices based on sound decision making skills, rather than impulse, you and your elder care recipients will not only live comfortably through our summer heat, but also enjoy yourselves.
And, don’t forget about those precious pets of ours. Keep them cool, with plenty of drinking water. Never leave your pet in the car, even with the windows cracked.
Keep citronella candles away from your pets and rely on your veterinarian’s advice when it comes to medicated shampoos, flea and tick medication, and grooming.
Feel free to download our resource brochure on Beating the Summer Heat.
Have a great summer by staying healthy and cool . . .