7 summer safety life hacks for seniors

Excerpt: Enjoy the freedom of being outdoors and socializing safely this summer. To stay healthy and comfortable, take precautions to avoid harmful exposures to heat, sun, bugs, wildfire smoke and contaminated food. Stay hydrated with water rather than sugary drinks, keep perishable foods cool, and soothe itchy bites with calamine lotion. Avoid or limit time outdoors in extreme heat and when air quality is poor due to smog or wildfire smoke.

Being outdoors in summer, after being double vaccinated, is one of the safest and most enjoyable ways to socialize with family and friends as Canadians emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the potential exposure to heat, sun, bugs and wildfire smoke particles in the air, consider these health safety precautions:

  1. Hydrate with the right drinks.
    Up to 60% of the human body is made of water. It’s essential for supplying nutrients, maintaining blood circulation and body temperature, helping digestion and stabilizing your heartbeat,* according to Frederick Health Medical Group. Drink plenty of water and eat foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables to stay hydrated. A trickier, counterintuitive hydration tip is to also limit beverages like coffee, sugary soft drinks, alcohol and energy drinks that remove water from your tissues.*

  2. Soothe skeeter bites.
    There are over 3,500 types of mosquitoes worldwide and only female mosquitoes bite people,* says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your bites itch, apply calamine lotion, nonprescription hydrocortisone, or a cool compress,* advises Mayo Clinic. Or try dabbing paste made of baking soda and water to help ease the itch. Avoid scratching bites because they can become infected.

  3. Get water out of your ears.
    If your ears are full of water after swimming, tip your head or use a towel or facecloth to wick out the water,* recommends Toronto’s Wellpoint Health Centre. Avoid using cotton swabs. Another remedy is to apply a few drops of solution with 5% white vinegar and 95% isopropyl alcohol.*

  4. Stay cool in dog days of summer.
    The “dog days of summer” are named after the Dog Star (Sirius) the Canis Major constellation, which the ancient Greeks blamed for the hot temperatures, drought, discomfort and sickness that occurred in summer.* As the number of extreme heat events increase, older adults and those with chronic illnesses are more at risk of heat stroke,* according to Health Canada. Some common drugs for treating heart disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease and dementia can also increase the risk of heat illness.* Stay cool by being more active in cooler parts of the day, drinking more water when it’s hot, wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting breathable clothing and a hat, and spending more time in air-conditioned spaces.*

  5. Protect your lungs from wildfire smoke.
    Wildfire smoke has affected air quality in much of Western Canada and major cities such as Toronto and Montreal* this summer, according to The Globe and Mail. When air quality is poor, minimize outdoor activities and use an air purifier in rooms where you spend a lot of time.*

  6. Keep food cool.
    Four million Canadians get sick from contaminated food each year,* reports the Public Health Agency of Canada. Hot and humid weather creates prime conditions for bacteria to grow, thrive and contaminate food. On outings, bring ice packs to pack around perishable foods and keep coolers with food out of the sun,* suggests HealthLinkBC. Keep raw meat, fish, poultry and eggs away from fresh fruits and vegetables and cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination. For leftovers, cool food quickly in shallow containers and don’t keep food at room temperature for more than an hour before refrigerating.*

  7. Use sunscreen to protect tanned skin.
    A tan doesn’t protect you against skin damage or skin cancer. A base tan is equivalent to a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of only 2-4,* compared with the recommended SPF 30, according to the European Commission, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. Frederick Health. “Ten tips for staying hydrated during the summer heat.” (2019), online: https://www.frederickhealth.org/news/2019/june/10-tips-for-staying-hydrated-during-the-summer-h/
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What is a mosquito?” (2020), online: https://www.cdc.gov/mosquitoes/about/what-is-a-mosquito.html
3. Mayo Clinic. “Mosquito bites.” (2021), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mosquito-bites/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375314
4. Canadian Living. “8 great summer health and safety tips.” (2012), online: https://www.canadianliving.com/health/prevention-and-recovery/article/8-great-summer-health-and-safety-tips
5. Factretriever.com. “51 Sun-sational summer facts.” (2019), online: https://www.factretriever.com/summer-facts
6. Health Canada. “Extreme heat: heat waves” (2021), https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/sun-safety/extreme-heat-heat-waves.html
7. Health Canada. “Extreme heat and human health: information for pharmacists and pharmacist technicians.” (2021), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/extreme-heat-human-health-pharmacists-technicians.html
8. Health Canada. “Staying healthy in the heat.” (2021), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/fact-sheet-staying-healthy-heat.html
9. The Globe and Mail. “Wildfires in Canada: Here’s how bad the air quality is now, and when the smoke is expected to clear.” (2021), online: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-canada-wildfires-smoke-air-quality-explainer-2021/
10. Health Canada. “Wildfire smoke 101: Using an air purifier to filter wildfire smoke.” (2021), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/using-portable-air-cleaner-wildfire-smoke.html
11. Public Health Agency of Canada. “Food-related illnesses, hospitalizations & deaths in Canada.” (2016), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/food-nutrition/infographic-food-related-illnesses-hospitalizations-deaths-in-canada.html
12. Government of Canada. “Summer food safety tips.” (2013), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/seasonal-food-safety/summer-food-safety-tips.html
13. HealthLinkBC. “Summer food safety.” (2018), online: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-feature/summer-food-safety#:~:text=%20Summer%20Food%20Safety%20%201%20Keep%20food,you%20put%20it%20into%20the%20cooler%20More%207.
14. Sun Safety At Work Canada. “Sun safety facts.” (2021), online: https://sunsafetyatwork.ca/sun-safety-facts#:~:text=Sun%20exposure%20at%20work%20is%20a%20big%20deal%2C,it%20is%20the%20primary%20cause%20of%20skin%20cancer.