The beauty of the summer season is having a lot of sunshine. But, with the sunshine comes plenty of higher heat temperatures and opportunities for time in the sun. For seniors and their caregivers, the warmer days bring concern for how to stay cool. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that certain heat-related risks affect seniors aged 65 and older more easily than in younger adults. Those risks include the following facts.
• The body takes longer to adjust to temperature changes
• Seniors are not able to sweat as quickly in reaction to the heat
• Certain chronic health conditions can adversely affect the body’s reaction to high temperatures
• Various prescription medications have warnings to avoid direct exposure to the sun as the prescription may not interact well with extreme heat, high humidity, and strong sunlight
• Getting heatstroke from extensive exposure to the sun during the hottest part of daily sunlight hours
• Becoming dehydrated, especially when working in the garden or when exercising outdoors
• Having long-term skin damage from years of outdoor exposure may contribute to skin cancer
The good news is that there are a few simple habits that seniors can adopt to help themselves enjoy the summer season while remaining cool. Caregivers can also help seniors do what they can to protect themselves from the risks of skin cancer due to over exposure to too much sun.
Habits for Staying Cool
1. Stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment during the hottest part of the day from 11 AM to 4 PM. Keep the curtains closed to help maintain a room’s cooler temperature and to limit the amount of direct sunlight coming into the home.
2. Sit in shaded areas when outside to reduce the amount of exposure to the sun and to prevent heatstroke.
3. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, fruit juices, and non-caffeinated coffees and teas. Limit the intake of caffeine in coffee, tea, and sodas because of the diuretic effects that cause frequent trips to the bathroom.
4. Avoid overheating your body temperature by taking cool showers. Place a wet cloth around your neck if you are outside in the heat. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe down your face, arms, and legs. Soaking your feet in a tub of cool water will also keep the entire body at normal temperatures.
5. Enjoy cold snacks throughout the day to stay hydrated and to avoid overheating. Snacks such as fresh fruit, cold watermelon, Jell-O, Italian ice, snowballs, and popsicles have a high concentration of water and will help keep you comfortable.
Habits for Skin Safety
1. Always use a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection for protection against UVA and UVB rays and an SPF of 30 or higher for sunburn protection. Apply the sunscreen to your face, nose, lips, ears, neck, chest, and all other exposed skin. Reapply the sunscreen every few hours, after coming out of a swimming pool, and after you have been sweating.
2. Wear a wide brim hat and UV protection sunglasses and stay in a shaded area whenever possible.
3. Stay indoors or in a shaded area during the hottest part of the day which is from 11 AM to 4 PM.
4. Wear light-colored, loose, lightweight clothing during the warmer weather.
Skin Cancer Screening Coverage
If you suspect that you have skin damage from severe sunburn, skin spots, moles that are oddly shaped or have recently grown larger or changed their shape, you need to consult with your primary physician or make an appointment with a dermatologist. If either medical professional suspects that there is a cause for you to have a skin cancer screening, they can order specific testing. With a prescribed medical order, a skin cancer screening test may be covered by your Medicare benefits.