Tips for Seniors to Safely Enjoy the Beach and Pool

Tips for Seniors to Safely Enjoy the Beach and Pool

Have you been outside lately? Seems like no matter where you are, it’s hot – really hot.

When things are so hot outside, heading to the beach or pool seems like a good idea. The soothing water and pleasant breeze seem like a great way to cool down. And while you’re having a good time, you’re also creating long-term positive effects because being active outdoors is strongly connected to lower rates of depression and better physical functioning.1

But while you’re enjoying the water and sunshine, it’s important to never lose sight of just how serious the heat and other outdoor dangers can be. The CDC points out three reasons why seniors and the elderly are prone to heat-related illnesses at a rate higher than the general population:2

·        Your body doesn’t regulate temperature as well as it used to, and so has trouble adjusting to changes in ambient temperature.

·        As you get older, you are more likely to develop a chronic medical condition. Many conditions can change your body’s response to heat.

·        You might be on medications that can affect your body’s ability to adjust to the temperature or even to sweat enough to cool down.

When you hit the beach or pool, keep these points in mind. A truly enjoyable day can go downhill fast if you aren’t careful!

While an alert for elderly adults can provide good peace of mind when you are out and about, there are other things you can do to stay safe. Here are some tips.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of liquids, but make sure they’re the right ones. While water is the gold standard for hydration, you might also need electrolytes if you’re out in the sun all day. Consider not only cold water but fruit juices, vegetable juices, or sports drinks like Gatorade. Just watch the sugar intake as some of these contain unhealthy amounts of sweetener. Never drink alcohol or beverages that contain caffeine, as they can have a dehydrating effect that could spell disaster in the hottest weather.

Avoid dehydration by taking small sips of your beverage every few minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Though thirst usually signals dehydration, seniors might not feel thirsty at all. Other symptoms of dehydration include dark-colored urine, less frequent urination, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.

Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

The heat can wear you down before you realize it’s happening, and soon you have a serious problem on your hands. Heat-related illness can affect anyone of any age, but it’s more common in the elderly. Though you can suffer all sorts of ill effects from the heat, the most dangerous include:

·        Heat exhaustion. This means your body is losing the fight to keep itself cool. You might have a rapid pulse, cool or clammy skin, excessive sweating, and a feeling of being dizzy, uncoordinated, nauseated, or weak. At this point, you should immediately get to a cool place and drink plenty of fluids. In most cases, you’ll start to feel better soon.

·        Heat stroke. If you don’t address heat exhaustion right away, it can easily become heat stroke. At this point, your body temperature has soared to over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. You have either a rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse. You stop sweating, your skin is dry and flushed, and you might feel confused or faint. This is a situation that requires immediate medical attention! Cool down indoors or in the shade while you wait for help to arrive.

Having a mobile medical alarm with GPS at your fingertips can allow you to call for help, even if you are feeling confused and out-of-sorts. Simply press the button and the live, trained professionals standing by will do the rest.

It’s vitally important to get medical help right away, as heat-related illnesses can become life-threatening in a matter of minutes. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic reports that between 10% and 65% of those who suffer from heat stroke die from the illness.3

And those problems with heat can linger long after they appear to be resolved. Research by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that extreme heat and the illnesses that accompany it contribute to higher mortality for all causes, not just those that are heat-related.4 That means that one bout of heat exhaustion or heat stroke can lead to more health problems down the road. It’s all the more reason to avoid these illnesses in the first place.

Choose the Right Time

Heading out during the hottest part of the day is probably not the best idea. Not only are you more likely to suffer heat-related illnesses, you are also more likely to experience big crowds, hot sand, and a higher risk of sunburn.

Look at the weather forecast early in the day. Are heat records expected to be broken? Choosing another day might be best. Will it be storming? Seeing storms move in over the water can be beautiful, but they bring the danger of lightning and flooding.

When you head to the beach on a sunny day, try to avoid being in direct sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. That’s when the UV rays are the strongest. Big hats and umbrellas might help with shade, but try to avoid the hottest temperatures of the day.

Slather on the Sunscreen

Aging skin is prone to a higher risk of sunburn. Before you step outside your home, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. Reapply it often to ensure you have coverage all day. If you plan to get into the water, look for a water-resistant sunscreen.

It’s also a good idea to take a big, floppy hat with you. And just because you’re going to the beach, you don’t have to wear less clothing – in fact, long sleeves can help protect you from the sun. Light linens are the best option for staying cool, but 100% cotton can also help. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Is it an overcast day? Wear sunscreen anyway. Because even if the sun is hidden away behind the clouds, the UV rays are still making their way through.

Protect Yourself from Burns

Speaking of burns, sunburn isn’t the only danger.

Sand may look inviting, but it can get surprisingly hot. According to the Arizona Burn Center, the temperature of a surface that is under the glaring sun all day – like a bench, sidewalk, boardwalk, or even sand – can reach up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature can lead to serious burns with only brief contact.5 That injury can be even more severe if you have mobility issues that prevent you from moving away quickly.

For instance, walking across the sand might feel fine at first. But it’s extremely hot, and by the time you start to feel the burn, the damage has already been done – and now you have to walk out of the sandy area to find some shade, which means you are in contact with the sand for even longer.

Avoid this problem by wearing shoes at the beach, no matter how tempting it is to walk in your bare feet. Snug water shoes can help you keep your footing. Always keep a towel or blanket between you and the sand to avoid thermal injuries. And keep in mind that certain surfaces, such as asphalt or concrete, get hotter faster – so you may want to think twice before sitting on a curb or walking barefoot in a parking lot.

It’s always a good idea to have a senior button alert on your body at all times, such as a medical alert pendant or wristband, especially one with GPS and fall detection. These affordable devices provide 24/7 security and protection.

Remember the Power of Water

The buddy system is a wonderful idea when you’re at the beach or pool and enjoying the water. Never go swimming alone. Pick a beach or pool that has plenty of lifeguards and stay within sight of the lifeguard tower. Accidents and emergencies by their very nature are unexpected and unplanned for.

Remember that as we get older, our bodies don’t regulate temperature very well. While that matters when it comes to the heat of the sun, it also matters concerning the coolness of the water. It can be quite easy to get chilled by the water temperature, even if it seems warm at first. Stay in the water for only 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and come out long enough to warm back up before going back in.

Keep these tips in mind to ensure a great day outdoors by the water. Alert1 Medical Alert Systems wishes you fun in the sun all summer long!