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6 Steps to Keep a Midwest Senior Safe This Summer

Midwestern summers can pose many different health concerns for older adults. The hot, humid days increase a senior’s risk for a variety of illnesses including hyperthermia and sun poisoning. Conditions such as Lyme’s disease and West Nile Virus are more prevalent in summer months. Being aware of the potential risks can help keep your older family members safe this summer.

Here are five summer health risks seniors who live in the Midwest should be especially aware of:

  1. Dehydration: Encourage the seniors in your life to stay hydrated. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water each day is critical. Some foods can also help with hydration because they have a high water content. Examples include melons, berries, cucumber, celery, carrots, tomatoes, and leafy greens. Avoiding caffeinated and alcoholic beverages also helps improve hydration. Both have a diuretic effect on the body that increases a senior’s risk for dehydration.

  2. Hyperthermia: While many adults in the Midwest know the dangers of hypothermia during the winter months, not as many are aware of hyperthermia. It is the condition that occurs when your body is just too hot. The result can be problems ranging from cramping and dizziness to life-threatening heat stroke. Staying indoors in air conditioning during the midday heat is one of the best ways to avoid hyperthermia. If your older loved one’s home isn’t air conditioned, create a list of places they can go to cool off on hot days. It might be a local mall or the library. Many communities also set up cooling centers at schools or senior centers on especially hot days. Call your local Agency on Aging to locate one near your senior.

  3. Prevent Sunburn: This generation of seniors grew up not using sunscreen. As a result, many forget to use it now or use it ineffectively. Failing to protect the skin can be especially dangerous for older adults. As we age, our skin becomes more fragile and can sunburn more easily. A recommendation from dermatologists is to apply the equivalent of one shot glass full of sunscreen every two hours you are outdoors or riding in a car. If you are working up a sweat, it should be reapplied even more frequently.

  4. Wear Sunglasses: Talk with an experienced ophthalmologist and he or she will tell you wearing sunglasses is a must. They are more than just a fashion accessory. Choosing a quality pair of sunglasses and wearing them every day can help prevent a variety of vision problems ranging from cataracts to macular degeneration.

  5. Medication Side Effects: Some medications commonly prescribed for older adults may increase their sensitivity to the sun. Check each of their prescriptions to determine if one might be putting them at higher risk.

  6. Beware Ticks & Mosquitos: West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease are linked to pests that make their return in the summer months. Encourage your senior loved one to wear long sleeves and use a strong mosquito repellant when they will be outdoors, and to regularly check their entire body for ticks when they have spent time outside.

We hope these tips help keep the older adults you love safe and healthy this summer!

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