Summertime is in full swing, and travel season is upon us. For seniors, summertime often brings a wealth of travel opportunities, from family reunions to pilgrimages to cruises. But with the urge to get out and see the world comes an increased risk - especially for elderly people - of suffering from heat-related illnesses and injuries.
For seniors who are looking to stay active and healthy during the hottest summer months, an ounce of prevention can truly be worth a pound of cure.
Pay attention to heat and stay hydrated.
Overheating is a major risk for seniors, whose bodies are not as able to regulate temperatures in extreme fluctuations, either due to age or the effects of some medications. Keeping cool and avoiding spikes in body temperature is the number one way to stay safe and avoid heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration.
Taking a few simple precautions can prevent a host of heat-related problems.
First, be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Our bodies run on water, and it is essential to our natural cooling system. Juices, fruits, vegetables and frozen treats can also contribute to daily water intake, but remember that caffeinated beverages including coffee and sodas are diuretic in nature, and will draw water out of the body.
Second, dress appropriately in light, breathable layers. As our bodies age, our perception of temperature can dull, leading to unexpected episodes of overheating. Dressing in materials made of breathable fabrics like cotton, linen and microfibers, and using a layered approach can go a long way toward keeping the body cool. These types of clothing can also be particularly useful when facing unpredictable weather in an unfamiliar or exotic locale.
Finally, slow down! It's tempting to try and do it all, especially on vacation. Maintaining a leisurely pace, stopping often to rest (preferably in an air-conditioned area), and planning outings in short "sprints" during the cooler morning and late afternoon hours rather than a marathon excursion during the heat of the day can all help prevent a meltdown.
Avoiding an episode of heat stroke is far preferable to recovering from one. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as symptoms of heat stroke: high body temperature, a lack of sweating, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate and strong pulse and headaches.
Made in the shade.
Keeping out of direct sunlight and covering up appropriately when spending time on the beach or poolside is of critical importance. Be sure to use a sun block with a rating of at least 15 "SPF" (sun protective factor), applying evenly at least every two hours to ensure that delicate, older skin is adequately protected from damaging UVA and UVB rays.
Remember that there is no such thing as a "safe" or healthy suntan, at least according to a 2006 EPA report on sun exposure and skin damage.