How to Avoid Dehydration in the Summer Heat
Aging matters

It was one year ago this month when the column discussed the issues that seniors face during the hot summer months. The hot weather can cause grave risk for older adults and each year, The National Safety Council (http://www.nsc.org/,) promotes their guidelines to outsmart the sun's heat. Their advice offsets the serious health risks that adults with chronic medical conditions deal with this time of year.

The health risk factors of a heat-related illness:

  • Dehydration
  • Chronic illnesses (heart and kidney diseases; blood circulation conditions)
  • Prescription medications that reduce sweating
  • Salt-restricted diets
  • Overdressing
  • No access to air-conditioning
  • Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol

I'm a year older and honestly experience my body less able to cope with the extremely hot temperatures. And these days when I walk, it's in the early morning hours but even then, I have to prepare by taking a few steps to offset discomfort.

I've learned there's a reason why folks my age are at risk during this time of year, we are more prone to overheating and for heat stroke because our bodies can't adjust to high temperatures. For instance, the body becomes less efficient at regulating temperature because we don't sweat as much as younger adults, which is one of the body's most important heat-regulating systems. Plus, we store fat differently, which complicates the process even more.

It is a serious matter and here's why, as the temperatures go up, so does the internal body temperature, especially when exposed to the direct sun or hot environments. It's why we suffer from heat stroke. But since some of us enjoy the outdoors, I've discovered some things to do to better prepare my body before hitting the sidewalks.

  1. Go out early morning if you go out at all.
  2. Drink plenty of cool water -- on my walks, I take a big thermos of cold water with ice cubes and swallow constantly.
  3. Eat cooling snacks -- I find that sucking on ice cubes or frozen grapes makes the heat more bearable and stay hydrated and cool.
  4. At mealtimes, avoid heavy, hot casseroles or crock pot dishes. Instead choose light, cold salads.
  5. When outside and feel hot, put a cool washcloth around the neck. Sometimes I'll wrap ice cubes in the towel.
  6. Sit and put the feet in a pot of cool water.
  7. Inside the house, keep it cool and draw down the shades between 10 AM and 6 PM.
  8. Wear light-colored layers of lightweight clothing. It easy to adjust your comfort by removing or adding layers.
  9. Visit the library or a senior center or walk in a shopping mall. I've even walked around the outside aisles in big box stores.
  10. Take a cool shower, bath, or washcloth wipe-down.

Discuss with your doctor before changing your exercise regimen, especially before taking it outdoors.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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