Since people perspire less, are they more likely to suffer from hyperthermia?
Yes. Perspiration and quenching of thirst help to combat overheating. Older adults perspire less, are less aware of thirst and less able to feel or adapt to extremes in temperature than younger persons. Less sensitive skin sensors and less insulation of fatty deposits under the skin and the less efficient functioning of the hypothalamus (the temperature regulating mechanism in the brain) occur in older adults. Prolonged time for older adults to return to core temperature after exposure to extreme heat or cold begins at age 70 years and increases thereafter. Education and taking precautions may prevent most deaths related to temperature extremes. Increased fluid intake, gradual accommodation to climate change, rest, minimizing exertion during heat, use of fans and/or air conditioning, wearing hats and loose clothing and avoidance of alcohol are some strategies for hyperthermia.
Linda Breytspraak, Center on Aging Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Last update: Tuesday, March 14, 2006