Hot weather safety tips for seniors

Warm temperatures are a welcome relief from the frigid weather we had last winter. Hot and humid weather, however, can bring challenges and dangers for seniors. Here are some tips to help keep you safe during the summer.

Keep cool. When body temperature rises, our body naturally sends more blood to circulate through our skin. This leaves less blood for our muscles, which in turn increases our heart rate. The body faces additional stress when humidity is high, because sweat cannot readily evaporate through the skin to cool us.

University Hospitals (UH) advises staying cool by wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing, avoiding outdoor exertion between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and taking refuge near a fan or air conditioner when you feel hot. Experts also advise limiting your intake of high-protein foods, as these can increase metabolic heat. You should also consider exercising indoors, in an air-conditioned fitness center or shopping mall. 

Stay hydrated. The likelihood of dehydration increases as the temperature rises. In addition, our sense of thirst decreases as we age, making thirst an unreliable gauge of the body’s need for water. It is therefore very important to drink water even though you may not feel thirsty.

According to the Mayo Clinic, urine color is a reliable indicator of hydration. Urine should be clear or light-colored. Dark yellow or amber urine indicates insufficient hydration. Other signs of dehydration include a dry or sticky mouth, sleepiness, decreased urination, dry skin, headaches and dizziness. UH advises against drinking caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as these can interfere with hydration.

Protect yourself. To help avoid skin damage from summer’s intense UV rays, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen when you go outside. UH recommends using a sunscreen with UVA protection and an SPF of at least 30. Wear protective clothing that allows perspiration to evaporate, and also wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare.

Practice food safety. As room temperature increases, the length of time that perishable foods can safely stay out of the refrigerator decreases. The Mayo Clinic advises that perishables may be left out at room temperature for no more than two hours. When the temperature rises above 90 degrees, the safe limit decreases to one hour. Bacteria that cause food poisoning do not change the taste or smell of food, so it is difficult to tell if something has become contaminated. Watch the clock or set a timer when you remove perishable items from the refrigerator. Remember to practice these safety tips when you grill outdoors or bring perishables to a picnic.

People with diabetes need to take extra precautions in hot weather. The Mayo Clinic reports that high blood sugar can contribute to dehydration. Moderate your glucose levels and avoid sugary beverages and sports drinks when you are hot. Be sure to test your blood sugar levels more often in hot weather.

Judith Eugene

Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides life-enrichment classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges. She can be reached at 216-408-5578 or

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Volume 7, Issue 8, Posted 2:15 PM, 07.31.2014