5 Tips for Staying Cool in the Heat of Summer
1. Drink more water than you think you need. Then drink some more.
People in their 60s and older already face a higher risk of dehydration in general and hot weather can make it even worse. Not having enough water in your system can lead to feeling faint and nauseous, which can lead to dizziness and falls.
2. Make or find a cool place for yourself or your loved one.
Good old-fashioned practices like running air-conditioning and fans, closing curtains and blinds and staying out of the sun during the heat of the day, can really help older adults stay safe and cool. So can cool showers or baths, running cool water over parts of the body or keeping cool, wet cloths handy.
For those who do not have air-conditioning or are worried about running it too much for financial reasons, many communities offer free cooling centers during the hottest times of the year.
Public libraries, recreation centers, civic buildings, churches or other places of worship and senior centers all offer free opportunities to get inside a cool building on the hottest days.
If you know an older person who might need a cool-down, this is a great time to offer to take them shopping or to the movies.
3. Skip outdoor activities, or do them early.
The garden may need your attention, the dog may need to get exercise, or your regular walking partners may want to keep up their routine.
But ultra-hot weather is not the time to stick to routines. Give yourself or your loved ones permission to skip the weeding, the walking or the workout for a few days.
It is also probably a good idea to skip alcohol and caffeine, or at least cut back on them, during a heat wave. They can also affect your response to heat and ability to recognise problems.
4. Don’t feel well? Act fast!
By the time older adults start feeling the worst effects of high heat, they may require emergency treatment. But hospital emergency rooms are not the place anyone wants to spend a hot summer day and they can hold special risks for older adults.
Besides feeling faint or dizzy, other symptoms to watch out for include nausea, headache, feeling overly tired, having a rapid pulse or feeling muscle cramps.
If you take medications for blood pressure, heart problems or other conditions, they can reduce the amount you sweat and affect circulation, which helps the body cool down. If you have diabetes, it can affect your blood vessels and sweat glands, and heat can also change your body’s ability to use insulin.
5. Get together with others.
If you know an older person who lives alone, whether they live next door or across the country, this is the time to stop by, call or connect electronically. If you are near enough, offer to drive an older person to an air-conditioned place, or just take a ride in a cooled-down car. Since heat-related illness can sneak up on people and bring a risk of fainting, checking in is never a bad idea.