Older adults at greater risk of being affected by hot weather and sun

By Carmen Costantino
July 22, 2011

 

I thought if I wrote about summer and heat perhaps we would be blessed by actually having some warm and sunny weather in the Comox Valley.

Wishful thinking…

Having come back from three glorious weeks in the Ontario and Interior heat wave, our family spent every day outside in the sun. Transitioning from the Comox Valley weather to Toronto’s searing hot and humid weather was a shock to our system and we learned firsthand the importance of taking the necessary precautions to ensure safety and hydration while enjoying our favourite season.

Older adults are at a greater risk of being affected by the hot weather and sun during summer months.

There are many physiological changes that affect a senior’s ability to stay cool during the summer months.

As we age, our sweat glands, which help cool the body, become less efficient. Blood vessels carry less blood to the skin and the skin itself goes through natural normal age-related changes that may slow the rate of heat release or the ability to “cool oneself down.”

Normal aging cause older adults to respond slower to heat. leading to higher body temperatures and slower sweat productions. This results in a higher risk of dehydration and sun and/or heat stroke.

Chronic diseases of the lungs, heart and kidneys, and other illnesses such as diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s and high blood pressure affect the body’s ability to cool down. Medication for depression, motion sickness and high blood pressure also change the body’s ability to regulate temperature and need to be taken into consideration when spending time in the heat.

Our registered nurse, Anne Armstrong, has some great summer tips to help seniors and their family caregivers take advantage of the warm weather and “beat the heat.”

Anne’s Summer Tips for Seniors

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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