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Stay cool: 5 Summer safety tips for seniors

Jun 21, 2024

Clinical Editor: Megan Dodson, PA-C

The sun provides us with a whole lot, but some days we all wish we could dial down the heat just a little bit. For seniors, heat-related illness is a threat if you are not practicing summer heat safety. When we age, our bodies can’t respond to or protect ourselves from the heat as well. During the summer months, older adults are at a greater risk for hyperthermia, or heat-related illness. Learn more about these heat-related illnesses and helpful summer safety tips for seniors you can use.

Heat-Related Illnesses

To best prepare, understanding what these illnesses are can help you identify it in the future. With our summer safety tips, you can stay safe in the heat and be vigilant for others.


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All of us have been dehydrated before, but it may often disguise itself as simple fatigue, or just feeling “tired.” With the hot sun beaming down on us, water exits our body in the form of sweat. If unnoticed or untreated, dehydration can lead to serious complications.

Look for signs in yourself and others. If you or someone else is feeling dizzy or faint or is having muscle spasms, headaches or confusion, then it might be dehydration. Remember, dehydration can mask itself as fatigue, and your body isn’t as good as letting you know you’re “thirsty” as we age.

Heat Syncope

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Heat syncope is when someone faints due to the intense temperatures. It’s more likely to happen if you’re standing up for a long time in the heat, or if you suddenly stand up after sitting down for a while. When the body tries to cool itself, blood vessels dilate, which limits the amount of blood reaching the brain. However, fainting is not always caused by heat. There may be other underlying causes, so be sure to pay attention to your health.

Heat Exhaustion

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Heat exhaustion occurs when a person is both dehydrated and overheated. This is a dangerous condition as it may lead to a heat stroke (below). A person experiencing heat exhaustion may experience excessive sweating, weakness, cold or clammy skin, nausea, and vomiting, or a weak and fast pulse. 

Heat Stroke

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A serious heat-related illness, heat stroke happens when there is a dangerous rise in our body temperature. Heat stroke is more likely to happen in people who are exposed to extreme temperatures that they aren’t acclimated to, and seniors are particularly vulnerable to this condition. Heat stroke can happen in a very short period of time after exposure to high temperatures.

For heat stroke, look out for red, hot, and dry skin. Additionally, a person may experience a rise in their heart rate, dizziness, nausea, or even fainting. Behavior changes, confusion, and seizures are big red flags. If you notice these signs, call for help immediately. 

Summer Safety Tips for Seniors

Now that you can identify different heat-related illnesses, we will review our summer safety tips for seniors. You can beat the heat and enjoy this beautiful time of the year.

Monitor Your Conditions

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Seniors may develop chronic health conditions in their lives. Monitoring your body is an especially important summertime safety tip for adults. When exposed to heat, your chronic conditions may flare up or may increase your risk of a heat-related illness. 

Because of this, it’s an especially important summer safety tip. Make sure you are constantly mindful of your symptoms and how the heat may affect your body. Older adults who have heart, lung, kidney diseases, or are overweight should be especially cautious when out in the heat.

Stay Hydrated

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Perhaps the best and most refreshing way to stay cool is to drink enough water. This summer safety tip cannot be overstated. Staying properly hydrated is a major way to prevent heat-related illness. Older adults generally should drink between 1.7 and 2.0 liters of fluid per 24 hours, but people with health conditions (like kidney or heart disease) should check with their healthcare provider about how much fluids they should be drinking.

In the case that you are dehydrated, electrolyte-rich beverages like Gatorade are a good option. However, err on the side of caution when you buy sports drinks. They can be especially high in sugar, so be sure to look for low or zero sugar options.

Limit Alcohol

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Who doesn’t love a nice, cold beer on a hot summer day? While some alcoholic beverages contain a good amount of water, alcohol is a fast track to dehydration. Alcohol prevents your body from making enough vasopressin, an essential hormone that helps your body retain water.

Older adults may feel alcohol’s effects faster and harder than younger people. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends limiting alcohol to 2 or less drinks per day for men, and 1 or less drinks per day for women, and people who are taking medications or have health conditions should check with their healthcare provider before drinking alcohol. If you’re going to drink alcohol, make sure you’re also mixing in water to keep you healthy and hydrated.

Dress Light and Stay Cool

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If you’re anticipating being in the sun for a while, make sure you plan ahead with our next summer safety tip for seniors. You should wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing when out in the sun. The light colors help reflect sunlight, and the loose, natural fabric helps your body breathe to prevent overheating. 

Before you head out, it is a good idea to pack a small cooler with damp face cloths. When you’re feeling hot, toss one of them around your neck or head for instant relief. As always, make sure you wear sunblock!

When In Doubt, Stay Indoors

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The safest way to avoid heat-related illness is to stay in a cool environment. This summer safety tip for seniors is crucial, especially if you are the adventurous type. If it is simply too hot or humid, feel free to enjoy the day at home with an air conditioner.

Sometimes, senior or community centers are also air-conditioned.

Now that you are equipped with the best summer safety tips for seniors, you’re ready for the summer. Make sure that you constantly monitor your body for any danger signs. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and be sure to dress in light, loose-fitting clothing. Of course, the safest bet is to stay indoors when the sun is too much.

At One Medical Seniors, we understand that all our patients want to live their life to the fullest extent. When we empower our patients with information and resources, they can take back their health and develop healthy habits. As part of this, we want seniors to know there are ways they can enjoy the beautiful summer weather while keeping themselves safe as well. 

Equipped with these summer safety tips for seniors, stay cool with one of these nutrient-rich smoothie recipes that are perfect for summer.

Originally published July 7, 2021

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