Island Senior: Cool solutions for dot days

By Peggy Sue McRae, Journal contributor

As this summer gets off to a start much of the country has already suffered heat waves. Meanwhile our little corner of the Pacific Northwest remains blessedly temperate and yet no one is immune to the warming climate. As temperatures in the Northwest continue to increase our snow-packs are declining, sea levels rising, wildfires singe our air with smoky particulate and our senior citizens health may be put at risk.

As seniors we are at higher risk for heat related illness. Our cardiovascular systems are not as flexible and efficient as they once were. Drinking plenty of water is key. Hydration keeps your plasma volume higher so your heart does not have to work quite so hard. High temperatures can effect how our medications work. Side effects may worsen. Check with your doctor when temperatures climb.

You may want to boost your electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential salts and minerals that can be lost through sweating and are a critical component of heat related illness. Coconut water and bananas are a few good natural sources of electrolytes. Add some berries and you have the makings of a refreshing summer smoothie though if you are on a salt restricted diet; again please check with your doctor.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest nobody had air conditioning and if it was sunny we went outside. Times have changed. Now air conditioners save lives and staying indoors during the heat of the day is not such a bad idea. For me, it was spending a few hot summers in Eastern Washington that taught me to appreciate the pleasure of taking a mid-day siesta. If your schedule allows, taking a few hours during the heat of the day to lower the curtains indoors and nap, read, or enjoy other quiet activities makes sense. On hot days save early morning and evening hours for taking walks, gardening, and playing pickle ball outside.

Teaching summer school classes was a way to get through grad school but the Pullman heat at WSU could be crushing. As a total wimp in the heat I used an inexpensive, lightweight, India cotton scarf that I constantly rinsed in cool water and draped around my neck. This was incredibly helpful and got me through some high heat days when I needed to be able to function. It is a simple, low tech, elegant solution.

For Islanders getting out on the water can be a lovely way to cool off but it comes with a warning. It can be deceptive. There is no shade on the water and if you are enjoying a cool breeze you may not notice being fried by the sun! Be sure to equip yourself with sunscreen, a sun hat, and a full water bottle.

People travel from the far corners of the earth to visit the beautiful San Juan Islands in the summertime so let’s enjoy living in this uniquely beautiful and temperate place. Here’s wishing you all a fantastic and fantastically safe summer!


Dr. Orna Izakson ND, RH (AHG)

Six Ways to Stay Safe Outdoors in Extreme Heat by Susan Yeargin, Scientific American, June 21, 2024