Since March of 2020, many of you have been largely stuck inside because of the coronavirus pandemic. We have been told by health officials to socially distance for our safety. But now that warmer weather is here in San Antonio, we are encouraging you to get outside before the heat of the summer, albeit safely, because of the pandemic.
“With the summer just around the corner, you’ve got to keep in mind that too much exposure to the sun is bad for the elderly, and seniors are susceptible to heat exhaustion because of their age, immune system, and because they are prone to taking more medication,” said Pride PHC Vice President Andy Cruz.
We urge you to keep these five tips in mind as you get outside and the temperatures climb.
#1 Stay hydrated to beat the heat of the summer
We’re told all the time to drink plenty of water. As we age, we are more prone to dehydration because our bodies are not able to conserve as much water as when we were younger. Additionally, our sense of thirst becomes less acute as we age. “Seniors should drink no less than eight glasses of water or decaffeinated sports drinks daily. We also want you to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, because those drinks can lead to dehydration,” said Cruz.
#2 Dress appropriately
It is a balancing act when it comes to protecting yourself from the heat and the sun. “Fewer layers of clothing on your body may make you feel cooler, however, you are more susceptible to sunburn if you are not wearing enough clothing,” said Cruz. Your clothing and the accessories that you wear can act like umbrellas to prevent sunburns and heat exhaustion and, as a result, keep you cooler. The best clothing and accessories for the hotter months are light-colored clothes, lightweight fabrics or materials, loose-fitting clothes, hats and sunglasses.
#3 Keep your home as cool as possible
Even though sunlight may not directly hit any part of the inside of the home, the heat can penetrate the walls, doors, and windows and make temperatures soar during the heat of summer. Keep your home as cool as possible by keeping the shades closed during the hottest part of the day, which is typically the middle to late afternoon. “If your loved one does not want to run up the electricity bill with air conditioning, make sure they are using a box fan, or have them spend time in an air-conditioned public place such a mall, theater, library, or senior center,” said Cruz.
Since 1997, the City of San Antonio, Catholic Charities of San Antonio, Inc., United Way of San Antonio & Bexar County, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and community/corporate partners have coordinated Project Cool to provide heat relief to senior residents 60 years of age and older across the city through the free distribution of 20-inch box fans to seniors in need.
Call the United Way Helpline at 2-1-1 to request your free box fan.
#4 Eat cool, stay cool
Your diet can impact your body temperature. Consider treats that are low in sugar but high in water content to keep your body hydrated. Sugar-free popsicles are a popular favorite, and you can even make these delicious treats on your own by using juice or lemonade. Fruits and vegetables which are high in water, such as watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, and bell peppers, are also an easy way to increase fluid intake without actually having to drink more.
#5 Know the warning signs of heat illness
Heat exhaustion can develop very quickly, and so it is important to recognize the signs before it is too late. Unusual fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and headaches can be the first sign of heat exhaustion.
“If you ignore those signs, you run the risk of developing heat stroke, and in a worst-case scenario, even death,” stressed Cruz. If you, or someone you are with, are showing symptoms of heat exhaustion, get them to a cooler place to rest immediately. If the problem persists, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1.
It is very easy to get outside during the summer in San Antonio, but we urge you to enjoy the outdoors in a way that does not compromise your health.