This past weekend was certainly a warm one and the arrival of summer typically signals the onset of heat, sun, and humidity and the need for seniors to be aware of heat related illnesses and exercise appropriate caution. Older folks are particularly susceptible to the effects of heat stress because their bodies do not cool down effectively and it takes them longer to recover when they get overheated. Here are some tips to keep you healthy and as “cool as a cucumber” during the summer months.
- Keep the temperature of your home under 30 degrees Celsius by using fans, open windows, or an air conditioner. Install safety latches on any windows that may pose a security problem when they are opened for a cool breeze.
- Use the air-conditioned comfort of local shopping malls, libraries, restaurants, and other public buildings to your advantage if your home becomes too warm.
- Beware of medications and/or diets that can increase your risk of heat stress. Some medications cause fluid and electrolyte loss and low carbohydrate diets can cause the body to heat up at a faster rate than usual. Check with your pharmacist or doctor to see if you may be at a heightened risk for heat related illnesses.
- Enjoy outdoor activities, but ensure you wear loose fitting, cool, light coloured, clothing and a cap or hat. Plan a location that provides shade (or take along an umbrella) and use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+.
- Drink plenty of replenishing fluids and avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can cause dehydration. Water is wonderful, but you might also want to consider some of the popular “sports drinks” as they replace the potassium and electrolytes that are lost through perspiration.
- Curtail some of your physical activities during extremely hot weather. Arrange your schedule so outdoor and/or strenuous activities can be completed in the cooler hours of the morning and evening.
- Take cool baths or showers and use ice bags or wet towels to keep your body comfortable.
- Avoid heavy, rich meals and limit your salt intake. Spoil yourself with cool treats like frozen fruit bars, light ice cream or sherbet, or frozen green grapes.
Be aware of the early warning signs of heat exhaustion such as weakness, nausea, cold, clammy skin, lightheadedness, extreme thirst, heavy sweating, rapid pulse, and/or fainting. Heat stroke constitutes a serious medical emergency and typically includes hot, dry skin, fast strong pulse, confusion, and a body temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. Make sure your family members and caregivers are educated with respect to the symptoms of heat related illnesses and prepared to care for you appropriately.
The good news is heat related illnesses and injuries are preventable. If you understand the signs and watch out for the symptoms you should have no difficulty “beating the heat” this summer season.
Finally, because it is never too hot to giggle … Why do bananas use sunscreen? –Because they peel. Why are gulls named seagulls? – If they were by the bay, they’d be bagels. What do sheep do on sunny days? – Have a baa-baa-cue. What does a bee do when it is hot? – He takes off his yellow jacket. Why did the man love his barbecue? – Because it was the grill of his dreams. What did the ocean say to the sailboat? – Nothing it just waved.
Information in this column is compiled by Shell-Lee Wert- Executive Director of CCSH, 470 Dundas Street East, Unit 63, Belleville, K8N 1G1. Please visit our website at https://www.ccsh.ca, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our CCSH Facebook page, or call 613-969-0130 or 613-396-6591 for information and assistance. CCSH is a proud United Way member agency. Funding in part from the South East Local Health Integration Network