By Joy Pape, FNP-C CDE CILC
Take summer seriously. The season can be hot and hazardous to your health. Here are some tips for you to stay safe during the summer months.
Avoid getting overheated. As you age, your internal cooling system doesn’t work as well as it used to. You may not even feel hot, but you could be overheated. Symptoms include feeling dizzy or lightheaded, muscle cramps, confusion and clammy skin. Clammy skin is moist and may even feel cool. It’s your body’s way of compensating for the heat.
Overheating can be deadly serious. Check the forecast before going out. If it’s a hot day (more than 90 degrees) take extra precautions by staying inside where it’s cooler. If you absolutely must go out, wear light and light-colored clothes, bring a cool non-alcoholic drink (preferably water), and stay in the shade as much as possible. Don’t go it alone.
If you do overheat, and you are in the sun, get out of the sun and into the shade. Elevate your feet. Even though you may not feel thirsty, drink some cool water. Avoid ice water which is not as quickly absorbed. Pour cool water on your wrists and feet. When you start to feel better, get up slowly and move to a cool, shady area.
Don’t burn. Protect your skin and feet to prevent sunburns, which can be painful and cause skin cancer. Hot pavement or sand can be dangerous. Also, as we age, our nerves can be affected. We may not feel the heat, and when it comes to the bottom of your feet, you may not feel anything at all, especially if you have diabetes.
Use sun protection for your skin. Apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 to 50. It should be the broad spectrum variety, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and waterproof. It is important to reapply it at least every two hours. Wear a big sunhat and sunglasses for extra protection for your head (scalp, skin, and eyes).
Protect your feet. Wear protective shoes that fit well. Shoes can prevent you from burning the bottom of your feet and stepping on something such as glass, a rock, or even a bug, all of which can cause problems. If you are walking or running more, even well-fitting shoes can rub a blister at the top of the back of your shoe. Paper adhesive tape has been shown to prevent that.
Stay physically active. A few sayings are catching our attention: “Exercise is the best medicine” and “Exercise can cover a multitude of sins.” In other words, exercise is good for you! As we age, we lose muscle. Keep and build muscle by engaging in strength-training activities. Your heart is a muscle and being active can help prevent heart disease, falls, and more. Falls happen more often, and can be more dangerous, as we get older. Exercise can help you prevent or recover from a fall from a curb, ladder, or wherever you may be. When it’s hot out, you may not want to go outside for your regular activity. But don’t forget that you can be active and exercise in the privacy of your own home.
And…don’t forget to enjoy the summer!
Joy Pape is an internationally known board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, author, writer, and presenter. She believes that every person is an individual and deserves personalized medical, integrative care and hope for a healthy and full life. She can be reached at (212) 933-1756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.