Is there a right or wrong way to spend a summer season? Well, if you are a senior, there certainly are some cautions that go beyond those that a 12-year-old must adhere to. Yet, as we have learned over the last 10-20 years, we all are vulnerable to the forces of nature - if we want to enjoy to glorious weather our summers tend to offer up, we best pay attention to the warnings we have learned.
Here in the altitudes of our mountain towns, we experience greater amounts of sun exposure and its effects. UV intensities increase with altitude because objects are physically closer to the sun. In general, intensity increases at a rate of 6 percent per 1,000 feet above sea level for the same latitude.
With seniors in mind, there are numerous areas of precaution that one must consider to allow one to enjoy the summer season to its fullest. The list below, although not totally comprehensive, is a good start towards understanding the needs our seniors (and many of us) have during the summer season. Remember, the sun is a natural source of Vitamin D, so being outdoors can improve mood and health. Safety is key, but enjoying the weather is a great way to enjoy life!
This happens when the body can no longer control its temperature.
• Body temperature rises above 103 degrees.
• You become red, hot, with dry skin and no sweating.
• You have rapid and strong pulse.
• A throbbing headache is present.
• Dizziness and nausea are present.
Often a result of prolonged exposure to several days of high outside temperatures.
• Heavy sweating.
• Muscle cramps.
• Pulse rate fast and weak.
• Breathing fast and shallow.
• Skin cool and damp.
• Nausea with vomiting.
Occurs when the loss of body fluids, mostly water, exceeds the amount that is taken in.
• After age 45 we tend to lose water from our body, i.e., 3-5 quarts over a 10-year period
(primarily from our cells).
• People age 65 and older can lose their sense of thirst, and tend to not drink enough. Older people also have less ability to perspire, which is a mechanism to release heat from the body.
• Seniors often develop "dry mouth," often due to chronic conditions and medication use.
Occurs when you swallow food or water that has been contaminated with certain types of bacteria, parasites, viruses or toxins.
• More prevalent in the summer as we tend to leave perishable foods out in the heat longer (i.e., mayonnaise products, meat, etc.).
An irritation that can result from an allergy, infection, or skin problem like eczema or psoriasis.
• Outside and exposed to many more plants type irritants.
• Lower resistance/immunity in the elderly.
Changes in temperature
• Chronic conditions are affected by more severe temperature change then if the climate were steadier.
• Medications affect the body's ability to handle significant temperature changes outside.
• Getting a certain amount of sun exposure is good for us (Vitamin D), however too much sun and we are prone to sunburn and skin cancers.
• 30 minutes of exposure before reapplying sunscreen lotion.
The sun can also hurt your eyes. The UV rays can cause cataracts, macular degeneration and skin cancer around the eyes. Seniors should always wear sunglasses. Choose brown, gray or green lenses and the darker and larger the lens the better. Seniors should choose glasses that wrap around their eyes and block a high percentage of UV rays.
While we should all be very aware of sun exposure and receiving high amounts of UV radiation, we should also be cognizant of over exposure for seniors. When out with senior family members and friends, please recall some of the information provided here, particularly hydration.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels in Eagle County. He may be reached at www.visitingangels.com/comtns or at 970-328-5526.