Stay Safe This Summer

So far it has felt like a long spring with mild temperatures here in eastern Montana but if you've lived here for any length of time, you know the heat is just around the corner. While there is plenty to enjoy about summer it also comes with certain dangers, especially for senior citizens. As we get older, our ability to respond to summer heat can become problematic; however, age isn't the only factor. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are a number of other factors that can increase your risk of falling victim to the heat. These include:

• Age-related skin changes like poor circulation or inefficient sweat glands

• Any illness that causes general weakness or fever including heart, lung, and kidney disease

• High blood pressure or other conditions that require changes in diet

• Taking prescriptions that decrease your ability to sweat (diuretics, sedatives, certain heart and blood pressure medicines)

• Being substantially over or underweight

If you have any of the above conditions, you need to be extra careful over the next few months. Below are some important tips that can help and will be beneficial to people of any age, especially the elderly.

1. Hydrate, and then hydrate some more! Once you start to feel thirsty, you've already started becoming dehydrated. As we age, our bodies start to lose the ability to conserve fluid which makes it even more important to continue drinking before you start feeling parched.

2. Protect your skin. Aging affects its elasticity and the amount of moisture it retains so it can be more sensitive to the sun. It can also take longer to repair sun damage so make sure you wear sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF.

3. Avoid extreme temperatures. High heat and humidity is risky business for seniors. Avoid unsafe temps by going outside early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the worst of the heat.

4. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke so you can take immediate action-find a cool place to sit, hydrate and apply a cold compress to the skin. Symptoms include:

• Red of flushed skin

• Rapid heartbeat

• Tiredness

• Headache

• Confusion

• Weakness

• Dizziness

• Nausea

5. Be the cool kid in the neighborhood! Run your A/C to keep your home cool or, at the very least, comfortable. When the weather reaches 90 degrees or more, try not to worry about your electricity bill and let the air conditioning run. High room temperatures can significantly affect a senior's ability to sleep and communicate which opens the door to even more issues.

Following these simple precautions will help you enjoy the warm weather while protecting your body. You can even make summer safety a group effort! Check in on your friends, neighbors and family and ask them to do the same. Working together will make it easier to safeguard your health while taking advantage of all the things summer is known for. Go ahead and get out in the garden, attend that barbeque or go on that fishing trip -- summer is meant to be enjoyed, just do it safely.


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