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What are the “Dog Days of Summer” Anyway?

Wikipedia says the dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. Whew! Now that’s a definition!

For many of us growing up, the Dog Days of Summer seemed so very slow. The days felt long and sometimes very boring. How your perspective can change as you age! What were your summer’s like growing up? Do you have a favorite summer memory? A vacation you had with your family; an opportunity to enjoy these Rockies or perhaps a beach somewhere? How many of you longed for the summer to come to Colorado this winter and now as we head into August, it seems so fleeting!

As the temperatures rise in the summer, there are some important self-care items that older adults need to focus on. Seniors in particular may be at higher risk of heat-related illnesses as they are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Additionally, as we grow older, our bodies become less efficient at regulating body temperature. Certain health conditions and medications can also make it more difficult for the body to regulate its temperature or to perspire

While a simple rise in temperature may not seem like a health threat, according to the National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related death in the United States, causing hundreds of fatalities each year.

Fortunately, there are several things we can do to stay safe and cool, even in the midst of summer’s hottest days.

Stay hydrated
Just as our sensitivity to heat dulls as we age, so does our awareness of thirst. This, along with our body’s ability to conserve water as we grow older, puts seniors at a greater risk of dehydration. Summer heat adds to the risk, because on hot days, the body loses water more quickly. Here are some tips for staying hydrated this summer.
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take in fluids. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can cause the body to lose even more fluid.
Drink herbal ice teas.
Summer is a great time to eat lots of fresh fruit which is a wonderful source of fluids – not everything has to be water.
Add fresh lemon or lime to your water to add a little flavor.
Use water to dilute fruit juices, making them last longer and increasing your fluid intake.
Get creative! Make “mock-tails,” like non-alcoholic daiquiris and pina coladas.
If you are on a fluid-restricted diet, consult your physician about how to get the fluids you need during the hot summer months.

Other tips to beat the heat
Here are some other ways to beat the heat this summer:
Keep your home safe and comfortable by running the air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day and by letting in cool air in the early morning and late evening hours. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, take a break during the hottest part of the day by going to a movie, shopping at an indoor mall, visit the library or the Senior Center.
Dress in lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing, made of natural fabrics, like linen or cotton.
If you must go outside to walk, garden, or do errands, plan this for the early morning hours, when it’s coolest.
Take a cool shower or bath.

Get plenty of rest.

If you do experience problems …
If you or a loved one experiences heavy sweating, weakness, a fast and weak pulse, nausea or fainting, this could be a sign of heat exhaustion. In this case, move to a cool location as quickly as possible. Lie down, loosen clothing and apply cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible. Sip some cool water.

Heat stroke is a more serious situation and is characterized by a body temperature above 103 degrees, hot and red skin, a rapid and strong pulse, or unconsciousness. In this case, call 911 immediately. Before paramedics arrive, move the person to a cooler environment, apply cool cloths, but do NOT give them fluids.

Enjoy your summer!

With a little diligence and preparation, everyone should be able to enjoy these dog days of summer safely.

Leslie Mader, Business Development
LeslieMader@trucare.org
2593 Park Lane
Lafayette, CO 80026
303.926.4748
PACE.TRUcare.org