The high temperatures of summer can bring high risk of heat-related illnesses for older people, who have more difficulty in adjusting to sudden changes in temperature. In addition, seniors are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that alter normal body responses to heat. But the risk of heat stress can be reduced–here’s how to beat the heat this summer.

Watch the Time and Weather

The hottest time of day during summer is mid-afternoon. Don’t get caught in rising temperatures while tending the garden, and keep an eye on the heat by getting emails, text messages or smartphone app notifications about the forecast and for severe weather alerts.

The National Weather Service has a list of mostly free services on its website.

Tips to Avoid Dehydration

Seniors are more likely to get dehydrated faster, and they are more prone to over-heating than their younger counterparts. Becoming overheated can lead to heat stroke, can aggravate pre-existing health conditions and can even cause death. One key way to prevent this is to keep hydrated, so follow these tips to beat the heat:

    • Carry a thermos filled with a cool drink, refilling it regularly

    • Avoid caffeine, sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages

    • Hydrate often–don’t just wait until you’re thirsty

    • Be alert for warning signs such as fatigue, increased heart rate, hot and dry skin, light-headedness, nausea or vomiting, dark urine, confusion and cramps

    • If symptoms persist, seek immediate medical attention

Know How Your Body Handles Heat

Some medications and pre-existing medical conditions can hinder the body’s ability to properly regulate heat, retain water and manage hot weather. For example, if you have kidney problems, speak to a doctor before increasing your liquid intake by too much.

Certain medications, like diuretics and those used to treat Parkinson’s disease, can increase the risk of overheating. It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor how to best handle the heat and if your medication can interfere in any way with your ability to beat the heat.

Prepare the House

When a heat wave strikes, it’s best to stay indoors during the hottest times of the day. Inside your home, you can take some simple steps to keep cool:

    • Find the coolest room in your house–like a room out of direct sunlight. If you don’t have central air or adequate air conditioning in other rooms, you may want to settle into this “cool room” until the heat wave subsides.

    • Draw curtains and blinds over windows to block out the sunlight. Ideally, these should be light-colored, not black (which absorbs heat).

    • Periodically splash yourself with cool water or take a cool shower/bath.

    • Prepare no-cook meals like salads or dips with bread. Don’t crank up the oven or eat heavy, hot foods.

If you don’t have air conditioning, go to a public place like a library to cool off. Your area might also have cooling stations, so call town hall or the local police department to find out if they exist and where they are.

How to Prepare to Beat the Heat

You should limit physical activity and put off daily exercises or outdoor maintenance during smoldering weather. If you do need to go outside, follow these tips:

    • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing of a breathable fabric like cotton to reflect the sun and encourage airflow.

    • Always wear SPF 30+ sunscreen and protective sunglasses.

    • Wear a wide-brimmed, well-vented hat–or use an umbrella to keep the heat at bay.

    • If you must travel, run the car’s air conditioner for a few minutes before getting in the vehicle and bring lots of water to hydrate during your trip.

    • Avoid public transportation with cramped quarters.

If you have a loved one who may be more susceptible to hot weather, check on them twice a day to make sure they are well hydrated, cool and comfortable.

If they display signs of heat stroke, call for help immediately.