Senior Safety During the Summer Heat

August 2, 2021

Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors, visit with family and friends, and be physically active (read about our top 5 activities here). But as the weather continues to heat up, seniors should take safety precautions to beat the summer heat.

Priority Life Care has put together a list of Senior Safety tips to combat the dangers of overheating that could lead to dangerous health conditions such as sunburns, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. Use these guidelines to stay safe and enjoy summer!

Senior Safety During the Summer Heat - Blog resource by Priority Life Care

Are Older Adults More Likely to Have Heat Stress?

Yes, as we age, our bodies do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature or continued extreme heat. This could include stepping the change in temperature from an air-conditioned indoors to the heat of the outdoors. Older adults also often have chronic medical conditions or take prescription medicines that affect their bodies’ response and/or ability to control their own temperature.

Tips for Staying Safe in the Heat

  • Spend your time outdoors in the early morning when the air is it’s coolest
  • Stay indoors with air conditioning as the heat builds into the afternoon
    • If you don’t have an air conditioner, visit a place with air conditioning such friends or family, the local library, a nearby senior center, the movie theater, or indoor mall
    • Note:  The federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps adults 65 and older who have limited incomes cover the cost of air conditioners and utility bills. To reach your state’s LIHEAP program, call 1-866-674-6327.)
  • Stay hydrated. Start your day with a glass of water and drink plenty of cool liquids throughout the day. It’s best to drink small amounts of water at a time rather than gulping an entire glass. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting cotton clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Dark colored clothing attracts heat and can raise the body’s temperature.
  • Wear sunscreen to avoid painful sunburns and blisters. Apply the sunscreen liberally to any exposed skin.
  • Cool off with a shower that is not too cold or too hot. You can also take wet washcloths and apply them to the back of your neck, forehead, wrists, armpits and ankles for a refreshing cool-off throughout the day.

Know the Warning Signs

It’s important to recognize the warning signs of heat-related sickness, and when to get help:

DehydrationWhat it is: A loss of water in your body. It can be serious if not treated.

Warning signs: Weakness, headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, and passing out.

What to do: Drink plenty of water and, if possible, sports drinks such as Gatorade™, which contain important salts called “electrolytes.” Among other things, electrolytes play a key role in regulating your heartbeat. Your body loses electrolytes when you’re dehydrated. If you don’t feel better, call 911. If you feel better after drinking fluids, but have medical conditions like heart failure or take diuretics (“water pills”), you should also call your healthcare provider for a follow-up.
HeatstrokeWhat it is: A very dangerous rise in your body temperature, which may happen gradually over days of heat exposure in older adults. It can be deadly.

Warning signs: A body temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher; red, hot, and dry skin; a fast pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; confusion or lethargy; and passing out.

What to do: Call 911 immediately. Move to a cool, shady place and take off or loosen heavy clothes. If possible, douse yourself with cool water, or put cloths soaked with cool water on your wrists, ankles, armpits, and neck to lower your temperature. Try to see if you can safely swallow water or sports drinks while waiting for 911. Note: If you are caring for someone else who has heat stroke, only give them water or drinks if they are awake and can swallow. Do not try to give fluids by mouth if the person is drowsy, as it could cause choking.
Heat exhaustionWhat it is: A serious health problem caused by too much heat and dehydration. If not treated, it may lead to heatstroke (see above).

Warning signs: Heavy sweating or no sweating, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, paleness, cold or clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, fast and weak pulse, fainting. Body temperature is generally between 98.6°F (37°C) and 104°F (40°C).

What to do: Without delay, move to a cool, shady place, and drink plenty of cool fluids, such as water or sports drinks. Call 911 right away if you have high blood pressure or heart problems, or if you don’t feel better quickly after moving to the shade and drinking liquids.
Heat syncopeWhat it is: Fainting caused by high temperatures.

Warning signs: Dizziness or fainting.

What to do: Lie down and put your feet up, and drink plenty of water and other cool fluids.

Visit Your Older Neighbors and Loved Ones

Check-in on the older adults that you know. During extreme heat, offer to help them get to someplace cool. Remind them to take it easy and to stay hydrated.


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