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Top Summer Tips For Retirees
Summer is a wonderful time to be outdoors and to be active. It is the vacation season for millions. But summer can be a very dangerous time as well. And, like it or not, once we reach the age of 65 or we develop heart disease or high blood pressure, we are at greater risk of suffering a heat-related illness during the summer. Here, then, are my top summer health and safety tips for retirees.
1. Know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. The greatest risk, of course if heat stroke. But other problems can also occur due to summer heat. Thirst and less frequent urination are signs of dehydration. Prickly heat bumps are a really irritating skin rash. Some people experience cramps and swelling of the hands and feet. It is also possible to experience heat exhaustion (clammy skin, paleness, dizziness, nausea, fever, and headache). Heat stroke symptoms include: sluggishness, rapid heart rate and breathing, confusion and irritability, high body temperature, intense muscle aches, fever, diarrhea or nausea and even fainting and convulsions. Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. People suffering heat stroke need to get to a hospital immediately.
2. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Water cools and prevents dehydration. Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day, not just with meals. Sports drinks are also helpful. But avoid drinks with a lot of caffeine, lots of sugar, or alcohol because they can cause you to lose more body fluids.
3. Be smart about physical exertion. It is best to limit exercise to moderate activity. Plan to engage in any activities that require great physical exertion either early in the day (before it gets really hot) or late at night (after the sun goes down and it cools off). You will find that you have more energy at these times and that you place yourself at less risk for heat-related problems.
4. Protect your skin. Protecting your skin with either a hat, clothing or sun screen will not only prevent an uncomfortable sun burn, but it will protect your skin against the damaging UV rays of the sun and protect you from potential skin cancer. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30+ or higher is the best choice. If you plan to be in the water, it is important to use a water resistant sunscreen. You can also protect your face, neck and ears by wearing a hat with a wide brim.
5. Think about your clothing. Most of us dress for the occasion or the purpose. But as we grow older and our skin becomes more sensitive and our bodies are more likely to feel the effects of heat, we also need to think about what we wear a bid differently in summer. Of course, we want to wear cool clothing. Lightweight clothing is best, but with a tight weave, if possible to keep off the sun. Remember that natural fabrics breathe better than synthetics. And don�t forget that black clothing tends to absorb heat while white clothing tends to reflect it.
6. Know how heat and sun interact with your medications. Some medicines make us more sensitive to the sun (increased photosensitivity), more sensitive to heat, or more likely to become dehydrated. A quick conversation with your physician or pharmacist will alert you to problems that could arise due to your medications.
7. Pay attention to Air Quality Warnings. Breathing difficulties are more common as we grow older. Smog, pollutants, allergens and humidity can make it difficult to breathe. Check your television weather information or check online to see what the air quality is before engaging in strenuous activities or before deciding to spend time outdoors.
8. Don�t forget to protect your eyes. The UV rays of the sun can also damage your eyes, and will be uncomfortable, especially if you are developing cataracts. Always protect your eyes when outdoors by wearing tinted lenses, a hat with a wide brim, or sunglasses.
9. Stay as cool as you can. Staying indoors in an air conditioned place is the best way to protect yourself from the summer heat. Electric fans might be helpful, up to a point, but once the temperature passes the 90 degree mark, they really don�t do enough. If you don�t have air conditioning, you might want to visit a friend or family member, go to a public place, like a library, shopping mall, etc. or a �cooling center� to spend time in cooler air. Even a few hours in a cool environment can help you prevent heat-related illness. The best time to go to a cooling center is always during the hottest part of the day.
10. Rest. Try to space out your activities so you have time to rest between them. If you begin to feel the effects of summer heat, stop what you are doing and rest for a bit before continuing. The less active we are the less our bodies are stressed by heat.
In addition, be safe by paying attention to normal safety tips. When traveling, pull over to eat snacks. This year, we should all be particularly careful where we swim and especially where we dive since many lakes and ponds have been affected by this year�s droughts and have significantly lower water levels. And, be very careful with fire of any kind.
Copyright 2007 by Dr. Cynthia Barnett
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