Medications Can Exacerbate Heat Regulation Problems
There is no perfect regiment for sun protection that can work for everyone. Many medications can impair the body’s natural ability to regulate internal body temperature or make the skin more sensitive to the sun. It is important that patients discuss the risks of heat stroke and side-effects of particular medicines before thoughtlessly basking in the sun. It is recommended that patients take supplemental Vitamin D tablets to keep their bones and teeth strong when they are unable to spend long periods of time in the sun.
Recognizing Symptoms of Overheating
You may suffer hyperthermia well before heat stroke sets in. Heat stroke is a severe progression of unchecked hyperthermia and heat exhaustion that can lead to permanent damage to organs or death. Elderly individuals are at increased risk for overheating due to an inability to determine whether they are dehydrated. They inherently suffer many internal body regulation conditions (with or without medication).
The symptoms of hyperthermia/heat stroke include:
- Weak or Rapid Pulse
- Heavy breathing
- Agitation or confusion
- Heavy Sweating or an inability to sweat
What You Can Do to Prevent Overexposure to Sun and Heat
It is suggested that seniors and those at risk of overheating avoid direct sunlight altogether during peak hours of about 10 am to 3 pm. Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen (with an SPF of 30 or higher) before dressing and thoroughly covering areas of exposed skin will help to prevent the deadly skin cancers called Melanoma. Sunscreen has the ability to make people nauseous when it is accidentally ingested. Be sure to use a lip balm with SPF protection on the mouth and to wash hands before eating any food. The sunscreen should be carefully reapplied as directed.
What to Wear
It is recommended that seniors avoid wearing dark clothing that absorbs heat. The best summer clothes are light loosely-woven outfits that reflect the sun. Special UV blocking clothing is available for those who feel they are at high risk from sun exposure. These outfits have an ultraviolet protection rating similar to sunscreens. Large brimmed hats and UV blocking sunglasses are basic sun protection necessities for beating the heat this summer.
Hydration Beats Perspiration
Staying hydrated and taking it easy during outdoor activities are key elements of preventing heat stroke and hyperthermia. Avoid alcoholic beverages because they can react with medications and quickly dehydrate the body while dulling the senses to ignore the problem. Caffeine may also cause dehydration from its diuretic properties if the patient does not properly hydrate with additional water as a safeguard. Coconut water is even more refreshing than ordinary water and can help to quickly rehydrate patients with the essential electrolytes their bodies need to regain cellular function.