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Summer Safety Tips for Seniors in Tampa

Staying healthy and hydrated throughout the hot summer months in Tampa can be hard for anyone, but especially difficult for adults over 65. Here, we share an information-packed guide for enjoying the summer and staying safe and well, even on the hottest days.

Drink Plenty of Water

Dehydration is a common problem among older adults for a number of reasons:

  • The average person over 65 years of age who still lives at home or in a retirement or assisted living community takes an average of five medications every day, some multiple times a day. Some medications can cause dehydration.
  • Aches, pains and stiffness often make it difficult to make trips that feel unnecessary just to fill your water glass
  • Many older adults worry that they’ll have to use the bathroom more if they drink more water, so they avoid drinking as much and as often as they should. Urinary incontinence can also affect water intake.
  • With age, the body’s thirst signals weaken, making it harder to tell you’re thirsty

The over-65 population is so prone to dehydration, in fact, that one study showed that as many as 46% of aging adults suffer from impending or active dehydration based on labs.

The most common signs and symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, dry skin, increased heart rate, dizziness, weakness, low blood pressure, confusion, dark urine and infrequent urination. If you develop any of these common symptoms, it’s important to increase your fluid intake. If symptoms don’t begin to improve, contact your doctor right away for evaluation and treatment.

You can prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water every day (around seven cups), avoiding alcohol or limiting your intake to one drink a day, and limiting caffeine intake, especially if you tend to avoid fluids for fear of having to void more often. If you take diuretics and fluid intake keeps you up and in the bathroom throughout the night, stop drinking after supper but make sure to get plenty of water prior to that.

Protect Your Skin from Sun Exposure

Although living a long life can contribute to a feeling of invincibility, protection from the sun is more important than ever as you age. This can be attributed to two primary reasons:

  1. Your body changes. Your skin gets thinner and fat content below the surface of the skin decreases. Additionally, your ability to repair damage continues to diminish with age.
  2. Your lifestyle changes. Many people move to warmer climates, like Tampa, and spend their retirement years on the golf course or poolside, soaking up the UV rays of the sun, at a time when their skin is most vulnerable.

The truth is that half of all people who live to 65 will have had skin cancer at least once in their lives, and after 65 the risk of melanoma increases by as much as five percent every year, depending on race and gender. Because you’ve lived longer, your skin has had more exposure to the sun over the years and protection is more important now than ever before.

Wear sunscreen whenever you plan to be outside or spend a long time in the car, and consider a sun hat to protect your ears and neck. Reapply sunscreen as often as the instructions state – this is where many people fail to protect themselves. Wear long sleeves and collared shirts whenever possible, but choose clothes that keep you cool and allow for air flow.

Avoid Physical Exertion

Hot days aren’t ideal for yard work, errands or taking the grandkids to the park. Save these activities for early Tampa mornings or evenings, which can be a little cooler and help you avoid the heat of the direct sun. Consider hiring help or asking family members to assist with outdoor chores, like mowing and gardening.

If you regularly work out, ensure you complete your workout in an air-conditioned space.

Make Sure Your Medications are Safe

Heat has a dramatic effect on your medications (and sometimes the opposite effect than you’d expect). It makes some medications dangerous to take and decreases the efficacy of others, which in turn can be dangerous. Additionally, some medications increase your risk of complications from heat and sun exposure, like the following examples:

  • Diuretics increase your urine output, which in most cases is needed, but in some casesextreme heat can contribute to the development of dehydration
  • Some antihistamines (both over-the-counter and prescription) can inhibit sweating, making it difficult to maintain your body temperature in warm conditions. As a result, you can experience heat stroke or heat exhaustion and, potentially, a life-threatening emergency.
  • Doxycycline and other medications (including topical pain relievers) can increase sensitivity to the sun, causing a blistering, painful rash within just minutes of sun exposure. Discontinuing the medication doesn’t immediately resolve the symptoms – it can take weeks.

This list isn’t exhaustive; there are many medications that must be stored in a cool, dry area and that can change properties when exposed to heat and many medications that can change the way your body responds to extreme temperatures.

To prevent problems, know which medications must be stored at cooler temperatures, store your medications according to manufacturer’s instructions and call your doctor before taking any meds that have been exposed to heat, especially if they look different (cracked, stuck together, sticky, etc.).

Keep Your Home Cool

Set your thermostat to somewhere between 68 and 78 degrees to stay safe during heat waves and extended periods of warm weather. If you don’t have central air, consider closing doors in your home and using a window or other smaller unit to keep a central part of your home (and your bedroom) cool. Fans can help circulate air, too.

If you’re unable to keep your home cool due to financial restrictions, contact the Florida Weatherization Assistance Program to see if you qualify for help by visiting their webpage.

Other ways to stay cool include staying with a friend or family member or choosing a retirement community where utilities are included in your monthly rate, which may be covered by your long-term care insurance or other payment methods.

Get to Know Your Neighbors

Knowing your neighbors is an important aspect of summer safety. Not only can they help you out with outdoor chores and errands when you’re feeling under the weather, they can monitor for normal activity in your home and call for help on your behalf. Get to know your neighbors and let them know what to do if they haven’t heard from you. Ensure they have contact information for your power of attorney, children or other family members.

Protect Your Eyes

Many people forget their eyes are as prone to damage from the sun as their skin. UV radiation can cause a painful condition often called arc eye, characterized by severe inflammation of both the conjunctiva and the cornea. It takes six to 12 hours before symptoms appear, so many people stay in the sun well past the time the damage occurs, worsening the pain and debilitation of the condition.

You’re at higher risk of damage to your eyes from the sun if you take certain medications or have light colored eyes, like blue, green or hazel. Ask your eye doctor about risk of UV rays and wear sunglasses when you go outside to stay safe. Sunglasses are an easy fix – they block almost 100% of harmful rays!

Use a Safe Insect Repellent

274 people died as a result of West Nile last year, and older adults are at higher risk of developing life-threatening complications from the disease due to a diminished immune system. Limit your risk of contracting West Nile and other insect-borne diseases by using an effective bug spray containing DEET or permethrin, which have shown to be more successful in preventing bites than other products.

If you’re bitten by a mosquito, tick or spider and have an unusually severe reaction or develop unexplained medical problems, seek treatment from your primary care doctor (or emergency department if it’s life-threatening) as soon as possible to prevent lasting effects.

Keep Skin-on-Skin Areas Clean and Dry

Skin folds create the perfect environment for yeast in the summer: they’re warm, wet and dark. This puts adults, especially overweight adults, at higher risk of developing intertrigo, an infection in the folds of the skin. To increase risk, friction in the area can cause open skin where yeast and bacteria can easily enter and grow.

Consider powdering areas where skin-on-skin contact occurs, such as under the breasts, under the belly, underarms, or in the groin to avoid the development of yeast infections, heat rash or open sores that don’t heal. Bathe daily during hot months, dry areas that don’t breathe thoroughly, apply powder and try to keep a soft, cotton material between folds to reduce moisture and friction. Check these areas daily for new sores and rashes and see your doctor right away if you notice open skin or signs of infection.

By being proactive instead of reactive, you can enjoy adventure and relaxation all summer long without risk of consequences to your health and well-being.

Consider a Senior Living Community

Tessera of Brandon, an assisted living and memory care community just outside of Tampa, provides a safe, comfortable environment for older adults. We offer a wide range of programs to ensure that, even during the hot summer months, residents have opportunities to live an active, vibrant life. Contact us today to schedule a tour.

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It’s easier to make a decision about Tessera of Brandon when you see how beautifully we’ve put it all together to create this vibrant and welcoming community.

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