Senior citizens are more at risk from extreme heat. NY1’s Jill Urban takes a look at how seniors can stay safe in the summer sun.
As temperatures rise, so does the number of cases of heat related illness and death. This time of year, everyone needs to be aware of the risks of heat and sun exposure, especially seniors.
“4,600 Americans die of heat related death a year, and of those, about 40 to 50 percent are over the age of 65,” said Dr. Evelyn Granieri, Chief of Geriatric Medicine at NewYork Presbyterian, The Allen Hospital.
Dr. Granieri says as we age we become much more sensitive to the heat and the sun’s rays. For one, older people are much more likely to get sunburn.
“By the time you get to be maybe 65-70 and definitely above, your skin is actually less able to tolerate the rays and you can burn much easier,” said Dr. Granieri.
So make sure to use high SPF sunscreen and keep skin covered. Also, heat stroke and other heat related illnesses are often common in older people because the body doesn’t regulate heat as well. As we age, our bodies may not sweat as much, which cools us down. Also sometimes older people can’t sense thirst as well, so it’s important to drink fluids to stay hydrated. All this is especially true for people who suffer from memory disorders.
“Because they don’t always perceive heat and often times their ability to regulate their temperature is off, so they may wear a coat or a heavy shirt or more layers of clothing when it’s hot,” said Dr. Granieri.
And some have executive dysfunction, which mean they just don’t understand how to get cool. Others at risk include seniors who have a chronic illness like heart, kidney or lung disease or diabetes. Also, medication can alter the body’s ability to regulate heat or increase the risk for sunburn, so be careful. And be aware of symptoms of heat related illness.
“Things that can happen are changes in the way you think. It can be fatigue, muscle cramps, abdominal pain or discomfort, just not feeling well. So if someone is like that and you are with them, give them something to drink and get them out of the heat,” said Dr. Granieri.
So if you are older or care for someone who is, remember to be extra care during the summer because increased heat can mean increased risk for trouble.