After months of staying inside during the recent stay at home orders, people are looking forward to safely spending time outdoors in the warmer weather. In any year, the arrival of summer brings out people enjoying walks, going to the beach or the pool, visiting friends, sitting on the patio, and having picnics in the park. This year, more than ever, people are excited to get out of the house once stay at home orders are lifted.
Time in the sun comes with its own concerns. The American Cancer Society recognizes that damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is the primary cause of skin cancer. However, skin cancer is preventable by taking the right precautions. When getting ready for any outdoor adventure, you need to protect yourself from exposure to the sun and heat.
Seniors who are 65 or older have thinner skin due to the natural loss of protective skin cells that occurs with aging. Medicare recipients of all ages with disabilities and health issues may have compromised immune systems and may not recognize the signs of sun-related health issues, like heat stroke. Caregivers can help encourage their loved ones to follow sun safety guidelines, as well.
Sun Safety Tips
You can stay safe and enjoy your time outdoors when you put into action the following sun safety tips.
1. Dress for the Sun:
Dark colors attract and retain the sun’s heat. You can deflect some of the heat and the damaging UV rays by following some of these guidelines:
• Clothing – Wear light-colored, loose-fitting outfits that will cover your skin. This means protecting your arms, legs, and neck areas.
• Head Covering – Wear a wide brim hat to protect your head, neck, and face.
• Sunglasses – Wear sunglasses designed to provide 99-100% protection from UV rays. Use wraparound sunglasses to increase eye protection from harmful sunlight.
• Gloves – Wear gardening gloves to protect your hands when working outdoors.
2. Top to Bottom Sunscreen:
Sunscreen is an important sun safety tool, especially for seniors who have more delicate skin. It is never too late to protect your skin with a high-quality sunscreen when applied as recommended. Keep the following in mind when choosing and applying sunscreen:
• SPF levels – Read the label on sunscreen before you buy it. An effective sunscreen needs to state that it is broad-spectrum for protection against both UVA and UVB sun rays and that it has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to prevent sunburn.
• Before going outside – Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin areas as recommended on the label. If there is no recommended time, apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going outside. Besides your arms and legs, put sunscreen on your lips, neck, chest, nose, ears, thin hair or bald spots, hands, and feet. Caregivers can help Medicare recipients by applying sunscreen on hard to reach areas for maximum protection.
• Re-apply – To stay safe in the sun, you need to reapply the sunscreen every couple of hours, every time you get out of a swimming pool, and when you have been sweating.
3. Keep Hydrated:
Seniors lose the ability to retain water in their bodies as they age, especially if they are taking certain medications, such as diuretics. This increases the need to stay hydrated. You can avoid dehydration by drinking water frequently. Avoid caffeinated drinks that can rob your body of essential moisture. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, sipping water often while outdoors it is a sun safety habit to replenish the moisture you have lost due to high heat and sweating.
4. Stay Cool in the Shade:
Try to limit your time in direct sunlight and seek the cooling effects of a shaded area. Seniors, and those with health conditions, may not be able to adjust their body temperature as easily as younger, healthy individuals. Staying cool in the shade reduces the risk of heat-related problems.
5. When to Stay Indoors:
Stay indoors from 10 AM to 4 PM when the sun is the hottest and brightest. It is during this daily time that you will be exposed to the most harmful UV rays. If the temperature is very high or the sunlight is too harsh for you, remain indoors until the peak hours have passed. If you must go outdoors, try to remain in the shade as much as possible or use an umbrella to cover yourself from the UV rays.
6. Keep Insects Away:
If you are going outdoors in an area that has mosquitoes, ticks, or other small biting insects, use an insect or mosquito repellent to reduce the risk of infectious bites.
7. Medication Alerts:
If you are taking medications, be sure to read the pharmacy-supplied information about potential side effects. Some medicines increase your sensitivity to sunlight and its harmful effects. If you have any questions about whether your medicines increase your risk of sun damage, talk with your doctor about how to take extra precautions when outdoors. In some cases, increased sun sensitivity while taking your medications may mean that you need to avoid or limit your outdoor activities.