Summer is a chance to soak up some sun, swim with the grandkids, grow tomatoes that are the envy of the neighborhood, and enjoy live music on the water. But more time outside and more physical activities can also spell danger for seniors. Injuries can increase during warmer months. About 650 people die each year from heat-related illnesses alone, and most of them are seniors. You can enjoy time with your family in the sun while remaining safe with these simple summer safety tips.
Stay Sun Safe
The sun is a great source of vitamin D, which can help prevent osteoporosis. It can also leave you with painful burns and skin damage that increases your risk of cancer. You don’t have to feel hot or be in direct sunlight to burn. Anytime you’re outside, wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, ideally higher. Reapply frequently, especially after sweating or getting into the water. A hat, long-sleeved light-colored clothing, and a shady spot can also keep you safe. If possible, avoid the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their most intense.
One in four seniors falls each year. Serious falls can break bones, shorten your life expectancy, and leave you debilitated. To reduce the risk of falls, avoid strenuous exercise, especially on uneven terrain, when alone. Remaining in good physical health can also help. Ask your doctor about a vitamin D/calcium supplement and consider regular exercise that includes strength training.
Avoid the Heat
The heat can sap your body of moisture, exposing you to heatstroke and other serious illnesses. If you feel dizzy, exhausted, or experience swelling in the heat, go inside immediately. These summer safety tips can reduce your risk of serious heat-related illnesses:
- Always take water with you and drink more water than you think you need.
- Sit in the shade — never in direct sunlight.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity during the hottest parts of the day.
- Remember that being in water may make you feel less hot, even if you’re dehydrated and exhausted. Pack food and water for a day at the beach or pool.
- Plan family outdoor events rather than going alone. This makes your summer adventures more fun and ensures that everyone has help if they need it.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion. Call 911 or seek immediate medical help for:
- Not sweating even though you’re hot
- Intense muscle cramps in the heat
- A rapid or weak pulse
- A body temperature higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fainting or seizures
Protect your eyes outside to avoid spending the summer squinting. UV-proof eyewear can also reduce your risk of cataracts and sunburns. Everyone in Florida struggles with insects. They’re more than just a nuisance. They can transmit disease and leave nasty bites. Apply an insect repellent before going outside, especially if you’ll be out at dusk.
Keep Others Safe
Safety standards change as we learn more. If you’re tending to grandkids or other vulnerable people this summer, remember that the safety standards of your youth may have shifted — and you may be a bit out of practice. These summer safety tips can help you be a great babysitter while having plenty of fun with the grandkids:
- Be mindful that falls are a big risk for kids, too. Supervise them closely when they’re playing.
- Practice good car seat safety. Children need to be correctly buckled into the right car seat for their age and size.
- Know that a child can drown in minutes — even if they are a strong swimmer. Drowning is quiet, and drowning kids may not struggle. Never take your eyes off of a swimming child, not even for a second.
- Be aware of poisoning and overdose risks. Keep medication out of reach of kids and lock up cabinets so that they cannot access cleaning supplies.
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