One of the changes that can sneak up on people as they get older and wiser is a decreasing ability to thermoregulate. Thermoregulation refers to a body’s ability to maintain the right core temperature even during hotter or colder weather. At a certain point in the aging process, we may start losing our ability to sense when our body temperature is getting too hot. The heat can sneak up on anyone and cause health problems, but retirees need to be even smarter about beating the summer heat. Consider these tips:
- Elderly people shouldn’t necessarily trust their internal thermometers. Do what seems right for the season. Don’t wear sweaters in the summer. Keep fans or air conditioning running. Seek shade and avoid direct sunlight.
- Stay hydrated. Keep water handy and refresh yourself regularly. Alcohol or caffeine consumption can worsen dehydration.
- Schedule your outdoor activities for early or late day, avoiding the hottest parts of the day.
- Review medications for summer-related side effects. Some prescriptions have negative side effects related to prolonged sun exposure. Others (especially some antidepressants and sleeping pills) may inhibit sweating. Alcohol consumption may amplify some of these effects.
- Remember your sunscreen and bug repellent.
- Use a buddy system. Establish a routine where people know where you are every day. Don’t go an entire day without routinely touching base with another person.
- Know the warning signs of heat exhaustion and stroke: fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headaches, flushed face, rapid pulse, and confusion. Take immediate action when signs are present and contact your buddy until symptoms improve or seek medical attention.