Summer Safety Tips for Older Adults

Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy nature and plenty of sunshine. However, hot summer days do pose an extra risk for older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults 65 or older are more prone to heat-related health concerns. Older adults sometimes have difficulty adjusting to sudden temperature changes. Certain medications or a chronic illness can affect their ability to regulate body temperature. Heat-related illnesses can be deadly, so taking extra precautions for yourself or a loved one is key to staying cool during hot summer days. 

Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses

If the body becomes overheated, there are several indications there may be a problem. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Heat syncope or sudden dizziness
  • Heat cramps
  • Heat edema or swelling in your legs and ankles
  • Heat exhaustion when your body can no longer stay cool – This often appears as feeling thirsty, dizzy, weak, uncoordinated or nauseated. You may sweat a lot and have cold and clammy skin or a rapid pulse.
  • Heat stroke, which is a medical emergency – Signs can include fainting, behavior changes, high body temperature (over 104° F), dry skin, a strong and rapid pulse, a slow and weak pulse and no longer sweating even though it’s hot.


For Older Adults: Tips to Stay Cool

  • Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly. DON’T wait until you are thirsty to start drinking water.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Wear sunscreen, eye protection, hats and clothing to protect yourself from sunburns, which make it hard for your body to cool down.
  • When outside, stay in the shade as much as possible and avoid strenuous activities to prevent overheating.
  • Take a shower or a bath to cool down.
  • Maintain the air conditioning system in your home so your home cools properly.
  • Avoid using the oven or stove to prepare meals as this heats up your home.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning, consider staying with a friend or family member during a heatwave or visit a public place that does have air conditioning.


For Caregivers: How to Help Older Adults Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses

If you are the caregiver for your loved one or just to check in on a neighbor or friend, here are a few things you can do:

  • Know what medicines they are taking and find out if they affect body temperature.
  • Call or connect regularly and ask if they are cool enough.
  • Consider having a remote home temperature sensor or monitor installed.
  • If you don’t live nearby, have the contact information for someone who does and who can regularly check in on them.
  • If you are the one checking in on an older adult, make sure they
    • Stay hydrated
    • Have the living space set to a comfortable temperature
    • Know how to stay cool during extreme heat
    • Don’t show signs of heat stress
  • Seek medical care immediately if the person has symptoms of a heat-related illness like muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches, nausea, weakness or vomiting.


Watch Out For Ticks That Could Carry Diseases

Heat is not the only concern during the summer months. When spending time outdoors, older adults should also be wary of pesky bugs like ticks that carry a variety of diseases like Lyme disease. Tick exposure can occur year-round but is most common between April and September when the weather is warmer. 

Before You Go Outdoors

Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, wooded areas, or even on animals. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood. The CDC recommends using an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent before heading outdoors.

After You Come Indoors

Check your clothing and pets for ticks. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later. According to the CDC, showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check on your body:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around the hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

How to remove a tick

  1. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick. This can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. 
  5. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet.

If infected with Lyme disease, most people develop a rash around the bite site. However, others develop flu-like symptoms that include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes.

If not diagnosed properly and treated early, Lyme disease can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. In some cases, fatigue, pain and joint and muscle aches persist even after treatment. After a hospitalization due to Lyme disease, physical and occupational therapy with Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services can help reduce pain and increase mobility and function. Contact us for a free consultation by using our online form or call us at 800-999-9883.