Summertime brings many people outdoors to enjoy barbecues, pool time and of course the bright, sunny days. But as many of us who have lived in Arizona for any length of time know, summers here last typically into the final days of September.
The summer sun and record heat can quickly put not only our own health in danger but certainly put our aging loved ones at risk. For those family members that are caring for an older adult, you will want to take steps to keep your loved one cool in these final weeks and months of summer. Especially since as we age, we are more prone to heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Since our aging adult loved ones are more prone to heat-related illnesses, it’s important to:
On average, a person requires eight to 12 glasses of water a day in order to regulate their body temperature. As temperatures soar, your body starts to perspire more as a way of keeping itself cool and this perspiration depletes the body of its water stores and therefore increases your need of this essential fluid.
Simply staying indoors during the hottest part of the day can go a long way in preventing dehydration. This may mean switching your mid-afternoon walks to cooler hours of the day such as mornings and evenings. It may even mean going to the local mall near your home so that you can get your exercise in and stay cool. If you must go outside, make sure to take frequent breaks in the shade and carry water with you. If you feel heat exhaustion setting in, quickly return to an air-conditioned environment and alert someone. Placing a cold towel behind your knees and on your forehead can help your body return to its normal temperature quicker.
Finally, watching your food intake can also help you stay healthy in the summer heat. Increasing your potassium intake will help keep you cool, as this is the first nutrient your body depletes when perspiring. Steer clear of eating too much protein, as it increases your body’s heat production. And while the summer just wouldn’t be the same without a frosty margarita, be careful not to over indulge on alcohol or caffeine as they can quickly dehydrate you. As hard as it may seem to go without coffee, tea or soda – remember these beverages will work to your detriment in staying hydrated and cool. Also remember that people tend to forget about their medication and diet might and how that may affect them. Medications that encourage dehydration and loss of electrolytes need to be combated with lots of water.
Various signs of heat-related illness include rapid breathing, weakness or fainting, headache, confusion and feeling more tired than usual. You can help a family member or friend who demonstrates these symptoms by cooling them down with lukewarm water, giving them cool (not ice cold) water to drink, moving them to a cooler location, removing excess clothing and spraying them with a fine mist of water and then allowing a fan to blow air over them. This will speed evaporation from the skin, causing their temperature to lower and stabilizing them until further help arrives.
No one wants to be stuck inside all summer so heed this advice, and follow these simple steps to enjoy these final “dog days” of summer safely.
Post Script: Where does the phrase “Dog Days of Summer come from? The Old Farmer’s Almanac, explains that the phrase ‘Dog Days’ conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer,” coinciding with the rising of Sirius, the dog star, in the constellation Canis Major.
Bob Roth is managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, LLC. Visit cypresshomecare.com.