10 Summer Safety Tips for the Elderly and Disabled
It’s taken a little while to coax the sun out of hiding but now it feels like summer is finally here! As exciting as it is to be able to enjoy blue skies and bright sunshine, this warmer weather can also lead to dangerous heat related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. What’s more, it is especially important for the elderly and those with long term conditions – such as multiple sclerosis and heart problems – to take extra precautions in hot weather. We’ve put together some summer safety tips so that you can enjoy this gloriously warm weather and still stay as safe and healthy as possible.
Watch out for signs of heat related illnesses
Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to a number of heat related illnesses, each of which have varying degrees of severity. It is vital to learn how to spot the signs of these illnesses as well as understand how to deal with them should you or someone that you know be affected. Always remember that the immediate action is to rehydrate and move to a cool place as soon as you feel yourself experiencing any of the below symptoms.
What it is – the stage when your body is losing more fluid than is being replenished, e.g. from excess sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea.
Symptoms include – tiredness, dry mouth and eyes, thirst, dizziness, light/infrequent urinating, dark and odorous urine.
Treatment – rehydrate yourself as soon as possible by drinking fluids, starting with small sips and then gradually increasing the amount. Rehydration sachets can be used to replace lost minerals if you are vomiting or have diarrhoea.
What it is – a milder heat related illness which normally improves once the body cools down.
Symptoms include – dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea, rapid pulse, tiredness, fainting, fast breathing, muscle cramps, body temperature of 38°C+
Treatment – cool down your body by finding a cool, shaded area. Drink plenty of fluids and cool your skin with water or cold compresses on the neck and armpits. Try and lie down with your feet slightly elevated. You should feel yourself start to improve within 30 minutes.
What it is – an advanced form of hyperthermia which occurs as a result of an unusually high body temperature. If you have tried to cool yourself down for 30 minutes but are still experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have heat stroke.
Symptoms include – confusion, dizziness, seizures, lack of consciousness, body temperature of 40°C+, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, red/dry skin, lack of sweating despite the heat.
Treatment – call 999 and continue to administer/receive first aid. If you are helping someone else and they have lost consciousness, put them into the recovery position.
Perhaps one of the most important summer safety tips – and one which applies to everyone, regardless of age – is to stay hydrated at all times. Hotter temperatures lead to increased perspiration and therefore faster loss of fluids, more so if you are elderly. If you do not replenish these fluids you can quickly become dehydrated which is why you should always keep a cool drink – preferably water – close to hand and drink steadily and continually throughout the day. Reusable steel bottles are really practical for keeping your water topped up all day long and, as an added bonus, can keep your drink cool for up to 12 hours.
Always aim to drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water per day, using common sense to increase your water intake dependant on how hot it is and the activity that you are doing, e.g. exercising, gardening, etc. It can be tempting to only drink when you feel thirsty but taking such an approach – particularly if your thirst is less noticeable – can soon lead to severe dehydration.
Be careful of alcohol and caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, and sugary drinks as these are diuretics and cause increased urination. If you find it difficult to drink plain water, why not invest in a water infuser bottle and liven things up by adding fresh fruits such as lemon, lime, mint, and strawberry? You can purchase one similar to this fruit infuser bottle from Wilko for as little as a few pounds – just make sure that it’s BPA free and doesn’t leak. It is also worthwhile keeping re-hydration sachets on hand just in case.
Carrying around heavy water bottles can be difficult if you are a mobility scooter or self propel wheelchair user; resting them on your lap is uncomfortable and impractical whilst hanging a bag from your handlebars is dangerous and risks tipping. Take advantage of storage boxes and baskets – as seen here on the Pro Rider Evolve 8 – so that you can carry around plenty of water to keep yourself refreshed throughout the day.
Seek shade during the hottest times of the day
The hottest period of the day during the summer months is generally between 11am and 3pm, although high temperatures can continue well into the evening during heat waves. Seek respite in a shaded and air conditioned room during this intense midday period and avoid spending long amounts of time outside throughout the rest of the day. Planning out your daily schedule for trips will help you to find cool and relaxed places to avoid the hottest periods of the day.
If you do need to venture outside during these times and you use a scooter or a wheelchair, why not consider investing in a canopy or umbrella? The metal and plastic components of mobility scooters and wheelchairs can become hazardous and scold your skin if heated up under direct sunlight. This Scooterpac folding scooter canopy is a brilliant way to stay cool and shaded from hot sunshine whilst also keeping dry during summer thunderstorms.
Invest in high factor sunscreen
Our bodies need Vitamin D to help absorb calcium and maintain healthy bones. The sun is our main source of Vitamin D during the summer months and a little exposure is a great way to get your daily dose. Too much exposure, however, can put you at risk of getting sun burn and developing skin cancer, a risk that increases as you age and your skin becomes thinner and more fragile. Use a high factor sunscreen – at least SPF 30 – and apply regularly whilst you are out and about in the sunshine, whether this is travelling down to the shops on your scooter or relaxing in the garden.
Dress appropriately for the heat
Thick layers and dark colours absorb heat and so are not the best choices of clothing on a hot summer’s day. Opting for light, looser fitting fabrics will help to keep you cool and comfortable on those warm and stuffy days – after all, you don’t want to feel trapped in your clothes whilst trying to enjoy the sunshine. Linen and cotton are great fabric choices because of their breathable nature and ability to absorb moisture, thereby allowing heat to escape from the body. Don’t forget to accessorize up with hats and sunglasses to protect your eyes and head, particularly if you are bald or have thinning hair.
Don’t over-exert yourself
Whether exercising, gardening or simply propelling yourself around in a wheelchair, it is easy to over-exert yourself in hot weather. Accordingly, our next summer safety tip is to know when to slow things down and take a break from the sun. Pushing yourself that little bit too much is easily done when you’re enjoying the sunshine but can have severe repercussions if you end up with heat stroke.
Doing light exercise is great for your health and well-being and there’s nothing better than getting outside when it’s bright and sunny. You should, however, always take a sensible approach to exercising on hot summer days and drink little and often to keep hydrated. Passionate gardeners should also follow this advice and avoid the midday heat, instead tending to plants in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Try also to limit gardening time to 1 hour intervals and head inside in-between these periods to cool off.
It’s a simple summer safety tip but one that often gets overlooked – stay accessible. You never know when you may need assistance from a friend, family member, or the emergency services and being inadequately prepared could mean that you are left isolated in the heat. Keep a fully charged mobile phone with you at all times and save a list of top contacts in case someone needs to make a call on your behalf. Before venturing out for the day it’s also a good idea to let a friend or family member know of your plans and your whereabouts, especially if you are planning on being out all day in the sunshine and heat.
Eat cold, light, and nutritious meals
Eating a hot meal on an already sweltering day can leave you feeling uncomfortable and feverish. Our next summer safety tip is rather a delicious one – cool summer dining. You can really get creative in the kitchen when it comes to creating healthy and nutritious summer recipes that keep the heat down and still taste amazing.
Salads are really easy to put together and, because they are light and fresh, can help to fill you up without leaving you feeling sluggish. Opt for plenty of leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and watercress to give you all of the vitamins that you need. Finish off your salad by adding in a good source of protein – chicken or oily fish is perfect – healthy fats like avocado and nuts, and then lightly dress with olive oil. Experiment with different combinations to keep things interesting – after all, variety is the spice of life.
If you’re not particularly fond of salad but still want a delicious meal that helps to keep you cool, why not try a cold soup? Gazpacho is a great way to get your daily intake of vegetables and is especially refreshing on a hot summer day. Check out these tasty – and healthy – salad recipes and gazpacho recipes for you or your carer to try out in the kitchen.
Find ways to keep cool
Inside or outside, finding ways to keep your body cool is a must during the summer months. Hand held fans are a handy little gadget to keep in your bag as they don’t take up too much room and provide an instant breeze. Sprinkling water over your clothes and body is an easy way to help cool yourself down – especially if you think you have heat exhaustion – as is applying cold compresses to the armpits and neck. Reusable gel cooling packs are readily available and can be kept in the freezer for when you need them.
You can also purchase more innovative products to help cool you down, including this lightweight microfibre towel from Gobi Cool. Simply wet the towel, wring out the excess water, and then flick to get up to 2 hours of cooling relief without any dampness. If your condition means that you tend to spend most of your time in the house, why not look at purchasing a cooling gadget for the home? This portable air conditioner from Jack Stonehouse is energy efficient and removes moisture from the air to make a space cooler and less humid, perfect for those particularly muggy days.
Consult with a medical professional
If you are ever worried about your well-being on hot summer days or you have been outside and start to feel unwell, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a medical professional. NHS 111 – also available online – is a free helpline that you can call when your local GP is not open and you require urgent medical care. If someone that you know is showing signs of heat stroke you should contact 999 immediately.
Taking certain medication can lower your heat tolerance and affect your body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. Consult with your doctor if you are concerned about whether this could be a potential side effect of your specific medication and they will be able to advise further. Always check the storage instructions on your medication to see if it should be kept in a cool, dark place – it is all too common to leave it on the side or windowsill for convenience.
Above all, take a common sense approach to sun safety and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. If you’re in need a new scooter or wheelchair to help make the most of the summer season, simply head on over to Pro Rider Mobility. We are proud to offer a huge range of premium mobility scooters and wheelchairs from the biggest names in the industry, all at affordable prices. With a friendly and knowledgeable team on hand to offer support plus the option of 0% finance and part exchange, there’s never been a better time to discover your independence. Call Pro Rider Mobility today on 01604 813428 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.