Summer weather draws people outdoors to enjoy sunshine, outdoor activities and occasions that bring family and friends together. Along with these summertime benefits come the mixed blessings of heat. Seniors are particularly vulnerable in hot weather to heat exhaustion and dehydration.

By following some common sense tips, seniors can more fully enjoy the good summer weather and avoid overexposure to the sun and heat.

The following tips may help reduce the chance that a senior will experience heat exhaustion, dehydration and instead enjoy a nice summer day:

1. What’s the hurry? – Summer should be enjoyed, so why rush? The faster you move the more your body heats, especially in hot weather. Slow down.

2. Cool Shades – Plan outdoor activities for cooler early morning hours. Look for shaded areas such as a covered porch or under a tree to enjoy an activity. Heat can impact seniors as easily indoors as it can outdoors, so be sure air conditioning is set at a comfortable temperature. Close shades to keep light and heat out.

3. Hot fashion to stay cool! Wear lightweight and loose fitting clothes. Lighter color and cotton materials are best for hot weather, rather than darker clothing that attract heat. Wear UV skin sunscreen of 30 SPF or more. Also wearing a wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella to protect from overexposure to the sun. Don’t forget the UV/UB sunglasses!

4. Plan ahead by taking extra water or other fluids to outside activities.

5. We all scream for ice cream! Ice cream, popsicles and other frozen treats are refreshing on a hot day. Drink plenty of liquids; water, sports drinks and/or fruit juices every day to stay hydrated.

6. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

7. Know the signs of a heat stroke and notify your health care professionals immediately if you experience the following symptoms:

* Flushed face
* High body temperature
* Headache
* Nausea
* Rapid pulse
* Dizziness and Confusion

8. Know the signs of dehydration What is dehydration?
Did you know that 75% of the body is made up of water?
Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in.
We lose water routinely when:
* We breathe, and humidified air leaves the body
* We sweat to cool the body; and
* We urinate or have a bowel movement to rid the body of waste products.
In a normal day, a person has to drink a significant amount of water to replace routine loss.
* Sweat: The body can lose significant amounts of water when it tries to cool itself by sweating. Did you know that a brisk walk will generate up to 16 ounces (one pound!) of water.
* Some other causes of dehydration are diarrhea, vomiting and burns and inability to drink fluids.

What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?

The body’s initial responses to dehydration are thirst to increase water intake along with decreased urine output to try to conserve water. The urine will become concentrated and more yellow in color. As the level of water loss increases, more symptoms become more apparent such as increased thirst, dry mouth, cessation of sweating, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, and lightheadedness.

How is dehydration diagnosed?

Dehydration is often a clinical diagnosis. Aside from diagnosing the reason for dehydration, the health care practitioner’s examination of the patient will assess the level of dehydration.

Initial evaluations may include:
* Mental status tests to evaluate whether the patient is awake, alert and oriented.
* Temperature may be measured.
* Skin will be checked to see if sweat is present and to assess the degree of elasticity. As dehydration progresses, the skin loses its water content and becomes less elastic.

How is dehydration treated?
Fluids, fluids, fluids!!
Prevention is the important first step in treating dehydration.

These tips might just help you enjoy summer in spite of the heat!

Copyright July 22, 2011 J Waterhouse
Family Private Care, LLC