Keep your cool this summer and prevent heat illnesses

Summer is a time for fun, relaxation and enjoying walking, gardening or other outdoor activities. But for older adults, who are especially susceptible to heat-related illnesses, the heat and stronger sun can pose some serious health risks if the proper precautions aren’t taken, says Manitoba Health.

Common heat illnesses

Heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat edema (swelling of hands, feet and ankles), heat rash and heat cramps, according to Health Canada. Heat illnesses can affect you quickly and are most often caused by overexposure or overexertion in the heat.

Watch for symptoms of heat illness. These include:

  • dizziness or fainting
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headache
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • extreme thirst (dry mouth or sticky saliva)
  • decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine

If you notice any of these symptoms in hot weather, move immediately to a cool place and drink liquids, preferably water, advises Health Canada. If someone has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating, call 911 and cool the person while waiting for help.

Summer safety tips

Here are six tips to help you prevent heat-related illnesses and enjoy summer safely:

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water, before you feel thirsty, to reduce dehydration risk. Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate your body.

Dress for the weather. When out in the sun, wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made from breathable fabric and a hat with a brim.

Senior man with dog at the beachAvoid sun exposure. Shade yourself with an umbrella or awning. Sit or walk in tree-shaded areas, which can be up to 5ºC/9ºF cooler than the surrounding area. Use a sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher, recognizing it will protect you against UV rays but not the heat.

Protect your eyes. Too much sun exposure can irritate or damage your eyes. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and vision.

Avoid strenuous activities in the heat. Plan outdoor activities in cooler parts of the day or walk indoors in a shopping mall for exercise.

Keep cool indoors. If you have central air-conditioning, make sure it’s working properly before the hot weather starts. If not, use a window air-conditioner to cool one or more rooms. Block the sun by closing awnings, curtains or blinds during the day. Use fans and aim the air flow in your direction.