Evelyn Granieri, M.D., and Michael Stern, M.D., share eight tips to help keep seniors healthy in summer and prevent heat-related injuries, including wearing sunblock, staying hydrated, and reducing strenuous activities.
Older adults should always wear sunblock, stay hydrated, and aviod prolonged exposure to heat in the summer to prevent heat-related injuries.
Older adults are especially susceptible to heat-related injuries and heat stroke. Evelyn Granieri, M.D., director of geriatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian/Allen Hospital, and Michael Stern, M.D., co-director of the Geriatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, explain why:
- Older adults may experience sunburn quicker because of changes in skin texture. Sunburn makes it more difficult to stay cool. Use sunblock (SPF 30 or greater) when outdoors for prolonged periods of time, even on cloudy days.
- Asphalt and concrete can reach up to 40 degrees hotter than the air temperature, and remains hotter than the air well into the night. Avoid prolonged exposure to the city's streets and sidewalks.
- It may be more difficult for older adults to sense elevations in temperature and for their bodies to cool down. Anticipate change by turning on air-conditioning systems or other ventilators when entering a room and taking off extra layers of clothing when going outside. This is especially important for older adults with memory disorders.
- Medications for chronic conditions can contribute to heat-related injuries. Make sure you ask your physician if any of their medications might put them at increased risk.
- Headaches, nausea, and weakness are all signs of heat exhaustion. Everyone should stay hydrated by drinking water or sports drinks. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you
- Heat stroke can be fatal. Heat waves kill more Americans than any other type of natural disaster. Older adults should always have a family member friend, neighbor, or home health aide who can check up on them regularly.
- High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, memory disorders, and psychiatric illness all increase the risk of heat stroke. Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. If you have a heart condition, consult your physician regarding your fluid intake.
- Muscle cramps, dizziness, clammy skin, and rapid heartbeat may be heat-related conditions. When temperatures begin to reach extreme highs, slow down, stay in the coolest place available, and reduce or eliminate all strenuous activities.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,353 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including more than 220,000 visits to its emergency departments—more than any other area hospital. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service.