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bhamBirmingham is known for its bright blue skies all summer long, and while they’re lovely to behold, they also let the sunshine pour down on Alabama, and things heat up real fast. Though summer only just officially started with Memorial Day weekend and the summer solstice, the South is already experiencing the characteristic high temperatures that make its summer nights celebrated somewhat more than its sticky, sultry summer days.

It’s no surprise then that the summer heat can have a negative impact on your health. Heat exhaustion and dehydration can easily sneak up on people of all ages, but especially seniors who are already prone to dehydration and may be more sensitive to the heat and humidity. While Regency Retirement Village of Birmingham’s caretakers are well versed in the symptoms of heat-related conditions and how to prevent or treat them, it’s important for everyone to be aware of how to stay healthy and safe.

Keep an eye on loved ones in case they exhibit symptoms such as disorientation, difficulty walking (or falling), headaches, dizziness, dry mouth or sticky salvia, difficulty or inability to sweat, produce tears, or produce saliva, rapid heart rate, a drop in blood pressure (especially if shifting from lying down or sitting to standing) or sunken eyes. Constipation and decreased urine, or urine that is a dark yellow color, are also causes for concern and a sign the body needs more fluids.

Water is best for quick, effective hydration. Carry a small bottle with you throughout the day and take small sips continually. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty— by the time your body sends out thirst signals, it is already significantly dehydrated. This is especially true for seniors who may have decreased thirst sensations or need an increased fluid intake to counteract diuretic effects of medications or to offset low kidney function. If you don’t care for the taste of plain water, dress it up with slices of cucumber and lemon, or even frozen fruits and berries. Fresh herbs are also delicious, like lightly crushed mint leaves or basil. Put a few pieces of your favorite fruit and herbs in a reusable water bottle or pitcher and fill with water. In a few hours the water will be in-fused with a light, fresh flavor with no added sugars or calories.

It’s also important to stay out of the sun and only go out during cooler times of day. Doing so will reduce your chances of overheating, or dehydrating through excess sweating. Run your errands early in the morning or in the evening when they sun isn’t at its fiercest. You skin will thank you, too, for staying out of harsh UVA and UVB rays that can cause skin cancer and other damage.

During the hottest part of the day, from about 12:00 to 4:00PM, you may want to take advantage of Birmingham’s many indoor activities with AC. Go to a local movie theater to see the newest movies— matinee prices and senior discounts give a daytime trip added incentive. You can also take a stroll through the local shopping mall to run errands. window shop, or walk laps for exer-cise. You can also enjoy Birmingham’s many museums and art galleries.

However you choose to savor summer, be smart about avoiding the heat and staying well hydrated!