Most of us think of summer as our reward for having suffered through a blustery, snowy Illinois or Missouri winter. If you are the caregiver for a loved one with a disability, keeping them safe in the summer means planning for different risks than those that create concerns during colder months. Hyperthermia is the counterpart to winter’s hypothermia and just as dangerous. It is what happens when your body gets too hot. Basic bodily functions and systems begin to shut down. Left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke.
3 Tips to Prevent Heat Stroke
These three tips can help family caregivers keep a loved one safe this summer:
- 1. Encourage hydration. The experts tell us that most days of the year we should drink an average of 8 glasses of water. During the summer heat, that amount should be increased. Buy a reusable water bottle you or your loved one can easily refill to keep with them all of the time. Encourage them to keep drinking and not wait until they feel thirsty. Thirst is a signal that your body is already becoming dehydrated. Consider using foods like watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, celery, and tomatoes that have a high water content to help improve hydration.
- 2. Sunscreen and a hat. Some chronic health conditions and the medications that are used to treat them make people especially sensitive to the sun. That includes putting them at increased risk for sunburn or even sun poisoning. Keep a hat for your loved one to wear outdoors handy and a bottle of sunscreen by the door. Remember that most sunscreens need to be reapplied throughout the day. Check the label to determine how often.
- 3. Limit sun exposure. Try to limit your loved one’s sun exposure, especially during the middle of the day when UV rays, heat and humidity are at their peak. Early morning hours and evenings are better times to enjoy the outdoors.
The bottom line is that heat illnesses and sunstroke can happen more quickly than you think. To learn more about hyperthermia, visit the Too Hot for Your Health at the National Institute on Aging.