By Anne-Marie Powers, Transitional Care Coach, Community Outreach, NVNA and Hospice
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As the weather warms up and more activities move to the outdoors, older adults become increasingly susceptible to the heat as well as insect-borne illnesses. The featured tips below are good to keep in mind when your grandparents, parents or even yourself, head outside this spring and summer. We recommend checking with your primary care physician before taking part in warm weather-related activities.
It is important for anyone going outside in the warmer weather to stay hydrated, but most important for older adults. As we age, we lose our thirst mechanism and do not feel thirsty. The heat can affect them much more quickly than younger folks, which increases their risk of dehydration and heat stroke. Fill a cooler with ice to keep water bottles cold while outside gardening, doing yard work or just taking time to enjoy the nice weather.
Repel the Bugs
Studies have shown older adults are more prone to contracting insect-borne diseases. Have on hand a bottle of bug spray to keep the mosquitos and other warm weather bugs, like ticks, off to prevent illnesses like West Nile or Lyme Disease. When purchasing insect repellent, make sure one of the main ingredients is DEET and consider wearing long sleeves and pants at dusk for additional protection against mosquito bites. Purchasing permethrin spray and coating your clothes and shoes with it when working in the yard helps prevent ticks from getting onto your clothes.
Protect Your Skin & Eyes
Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock! Protect your skin with sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and make sure to wear sunglasses, as well as a hat to shade your eyes from the sun.
If there is extreme heat and humidity, it is advisable to stay indoors in air conditioning. The body has to work in overtime to keep a normal temperature and this can become dangerous in older adults. Stick to cool areas like your home, the movie theaters, the mall, or a relative’s home to beat the heat.
Signs of Heat Stroke
If you are considering exercising or working in the yard, try to avoid being outside from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is the hottest time of the day. If you feel your face becoming flush, experiencing a headache or nausea, dizziness or confusion, get yourself out of the heat ASAP and take immediate action to help cool your body down. Two ways help cool your body down is either running your wrists under cold water or put a cold cloth on the back of your neck