Effects of Summer Heat on Older Adults

Submitted by Chris Austin, My Life LLC

Summer for most is a season that holds great enjoyment, with the anticipation of picnics, vacations and outdoor events.  But for older adults, summer can threaten overall health and wellness.  Elderly individuals are much more vulnerable to illnesses related to sun and heat exposure.  Dehydration, sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are just a few hazards of warm weather months.

Why are older adults at greater risk for heat related illnesses?  There are a number of factors that contribute to this:

  • Lack of hydration—some older adults with health conditions must adhere to fluid restrictions, thus increasing the risk of not drinking enough liquids.  Additionally, some older adults refrain from drinking adequate amounts of water because it is a hardship for them to make frequent trips to the bathroom.
  • As adults age, their skin becomes increasingly more fragile, which makes overexposure while in the sun a threat.
  • Older adults who hesitate to turn on their air conditioning for fear of running up the electric bill may ultimately be suffering in unventilated, hot environments.
  • As individuals age, their bodies don’t adjust as well to temperature changes.
  • Some prescription medications can impede the body’s ability to perspire when needed.


Below are some tips to make sure that the older adult you love and care for remains safe and healthy throughout the summer:

  • Take regular cool showers or baths.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages every day.  Ask your primary care physician about necessary fluid restrictions.
  • Assure adequate resting time.
  • Wear lightweight clothing—discourage sweaters and heavy layers.
  • Provide a well ventilated, air-conditioned environment when necessary.
  • Use sun block and sun screen while outdoors.  Don’t forget about a hat to shade the top of the head or thinning hair.
  • Offer assistance with strenuous activities such as gardening, mowing and walking to destinations.
  • Check in with your loved-one regularly.