Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Summer has officially arrived, and the weather is starting to heat up here in Puerto Vallarta. The scorching summer temperatures and high humidity can be dangerous for anyone, but even more so for the elderly. How can seniors protect themselves and stay cool this summer?
Kurt Kazanowski MS, RN, CHE, author of A Son's Journey: Taking Care of Mom and Dad, who is a senior care, homecare and hospice expert, offers these tips:
1. Stay hydrated
Dehydration is one of the main causes of most health problems, not just heat related. To keep everything running efficiently in the body, and keep it cool, water is a must. Encourage them to continually drink water throughout the day even if they aren't thirsty. Your body needs water way before it tells you through the sensation of thirst. Keep an eye on the consumption of caffeine and alcohol as their intake dries out the body.
2. Notice the time of day
If you have an activity planned, especially one with heavy sun exposure, schedule it accordingly. Here in Puerto Vallarta, the hottest times of the summer day are between 12 pm and 5 pm. Aim for morning or evening when thinking about having a family outing in the summer. Most importantly keep the time limited. There is only so long people of any age can benefit from being in direct sunlight.
3. Dress appropriately and seek shade
Older individuals' skin is particularly sensitive. Encourage them to use sunscreen and bug spray when necessary. Utilize shade during your summer fun whenever possible. Wear light breathable layers and sun hats to avoid sun exposure if shade is not an option.
4. Watch the index
High heat coupled with high humidity impairs the body's sweat glands. Therefore, it can't cool itself properly. The heat index takes the moisture and heat measurements into account. It then reports the temperature 'it feels like' outside with multiple variables in mind. There are apps and various websites where you can check the heat index easily.
5. Take it easy
Plan your activities with the needs of all family members and friends in mind. Strenuous activities outdoors are overwhelming to many in the summer. Sometimes turning your activity plans into two-parts is the most successful plan. If you are inviting older family or friends, consider their limitations. Have one part of the group do the strenuous activity you've planned and meet the elders for lunch or dinner afterwards. That way everyone can enjoy the day without worry.
6. Utilize AC
Air conditioning is a wonderful asset for people of every age, especially those in hot climates. If seniors do not have AC in their homes, they can take advantage of public places. Libraries, art galleries, movie theaters, shopping centers and many coffee shops have AC. Jumping in the pool, swimming in the ocean and taking a cool bath or shower are also great ways to cool off. Other easy options involve cool cloths and ice packs. Keep them (and your water bottle!) handy.
7. Know the signs of heat illnesses
Keep an eye out for any signs that seem off or out of the ordinary. Sudden redness in the face, dizziness or nausea are red flags. Sit them (or yourself) down in a cool place with a glass of ice water and take a breath. Any chest pain, erratic breathing, rapid heartbeat or sudden headaches should all be taken seriously. Seek medical attention if it gets worse.