Sun and Heat Pose Risks to Seniors

In the dog days of summer, the sun blazes and temperatures rise to the upper 80s, 90s, and even 100s. The scorching sun is welcome for beach-goers and sun-worshippers, but for seniors, extreme heat poses serious risks. While everyone should use caution to protect themselves from sunburn and extreme temperatures, the senior population is especially vulnerable to these conditions.Sunburst

Why?

For one, seniors often lose some of their sense of being overheated. They’re less aware of how hot they actually are, and they don’t self-regulate as well, says Mark Silberman, director of St. John’s Riverside Hospital’s emergency room, who was quoted in a Patch.com article. To further complicate matters, some medications often prescribed to seniors cause body temperature to rise, such as anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, diuretics, and cholesterol-lowering medications.

According to Medicine Net, there are three types of hyperthermia: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, which is the most severe. All are the result of the body becoming overheated and unable to appropriately dissipate the heat, resulting in an abnormal rise in body temperature.  

In order to avoid heat stroke and other complications of overexposure to extreme heat and sun, seniors should stay well hydrated and avoid strenuous activities in hot temperatures. If exposure is unavoidable, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, can help replenish salt and minerals in the body, but if you’re on a low-sodium diet, you should check with your physician before consuming these beverages. Finally, you should always apply sunscreen liberally about 30 minutes before going outdoors.

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