5 Items You Shouldn't Wear on Hot Days If You're Over 65
Health and wellness experts weigh in on your summer wardrobe.
This summer has come with record-breaking heatwaves and staggering humidity—both of which can be hazardous to your health. However, not everyone is at equal risk of heat-related illness or injury: People over the age of 65 are more likely than others to experience hot weather-related health concerns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Older adults face substantial risks during the summer season due to the human body's natural aging process, which can make adapting to temperature changes more difficult," explains Gavin Dawson, PA-C, WEMT, a physician assistant and the founder and lead instructor of Global Emergency Medics. "These risks are further compounded by pre-existing medical conditions and medications that interfere with the body's heat response and sweat production."
But by something as simple as making the right clothing choices on hot days, you can help minimize your risk of suffering heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses. Read on to learn which five clothing items you should never wear on hot days if you're over 65—and what to wear instead.
Anything made with synthetic materials.
Most synthetic materials do a poor job of absorbing sweat, which can leave you less able to cool down on a hot day. When your sweat sticks around, it can also irritate your skin, leading to prickly heat or similar skin rashes.
"Instead of synthetic materials like polyester or nylon, choose natural fibers such as cotton, linen, or bamboo, which are breathable and wick away moisture, keeping you cool and dry," says Josh Weight, director of the Australian physiotherapy clinic Gravity Physio.
"These materials allow optimal airflow, preventing heat absorption and retention that could potentially lead to overheating," agrees Dawson.
Wearing tight clothing on hot days can hinder sweat evaporation, leading to discomfort and potentially causing you to overheat, says Weight. That's why he advises opting for loose, flowing garments that offer natural ventilation.
Dawson adds that clothes with a relaxed fit enable "unrestricted movement, which proves particularly beneficial for individuals with age-related mobility limitations, reducing the likelihood of injuries."
Dark-colored clothing can trap heat rather than reflect the sun's rays, so wearing these items can also cause you to suddenly overheat.
However, it's worth noting that dark-colored clothing tends to offer more protection against UV rays than lighter-colored clothing. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), "a long-sleeved denim shirt provides an SPF of about 1,700, while a white t-shirt provides an SPF of about seven."
To balance safety and comfort, Weight recommends sticking to light-colored clothes in a palette of whites and pastels that are made with materials specifically made to protect against UV rays. You can also put sunscreen on under your light-colored clothing for added sun protection.
Perhaps counterintuitively, it can pay to cover up on hot days when you're over 65. That's because most skin cancer cases strike people aged 65 and up, and life-threatening melanoma is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 65-74.
"Be mindful of itty-bitty clothing styles that expose too much skin to the sun, as it can increase the risk of sunburn or overheating. Consider wearing loose-fitting, lightweight long sleeves and pants that provide sun protection while allowing airflow," suggests Weight.
If you do decide to go sleeveless, make sure you choose a sunscreen with a high SPF, and reapply it every two hours.
Wearing heavy fabric on a hot day would be uncomfortable for anyone, but experts warn that seniors face a unique threat when temperatures rise.
"Older adults can't adjust to sudden temperature changes as fast as younger people," notes the CDC. "This may happen because of certain medicines they take or chronic illnesses that affect their ability to regulate body temperature."
Therefore, Weight says it's essential to skip heavy fabrics such as wool or polyester on hot days, instead opting for lighter, more breathable materials like linen or cotton.
"These lighter fabrics allow better air circulation, preventing overheating and promoting comfort," he says.
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Here's what to wear instead.
The experts were quick to point out that just as there are certain clothing items to categorically avoid, there are others you should always have on hand in the summer months.
Dawson says you should be sure to utilize sun visors or hats, umbrellas, and sunglasses, all of which provide an additional shield against the sun's harsh rays.
He also notes that those over 65 can more easily get dehydrated, which is why he suggests wearing "a hands-free [water] bottle holder that can be worn like a sling or belt bag." This way, no matter where you are, you'll be able to stay hydrated.
- Source: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/emergency-preparedness/older-adults-extreme-heat/index.html
- Source: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/p/prickly-heat.html
- Source: https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/shade-clothing-sunscreen/what-to-wear-protect-skin-from-sun
- Source: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/research/articles/older-adults-protect-skin-sun.htm