Summer Sun Safety Tips for Seniors
Jun 7, 2021 by Danielle Andersen
Finally, the warm weather has arrived! Time to hit the pool, and plan those golf outings, picnics, tennis dates, and all things outdoors. But hold on to your flip-flops. If you’re “of a certain age,” keep in mind that hot weather and summer sun can be especially tough on older adults. All of us at Knute Nelson strive every day to keep our residents safe while they live their best lives — that includes offering hot weather tips for seniors so they can enjoy having a safe and healthy summer!
Older Age = Higher Risk
Seniors are in one of the greatest risk categories for heat stroke. A common hallmark of an aging body is that it’s less able to regulate internal temperature and adapt to changing temperatures.
Additionally, the CDC reports that most cases of skin cancer are found in individuals 65 and older. One of the reasons older adults are more susceptible to skin cancer is the thinner skin that comes with age. The thinner the skin, the easier it is for harmful UV rays to penetrate it and damage cells. Compounding the problem – as we age, our ability to repair damaged cells decreases, allowing the abnormal cell growth that can lead to skin cancer to flourish.
Before you head out to catch a few glorious rays, take time to review these 8 hot weather tips for seniors:
Heat makes you sweat. Sweating helps cool you, but it can also dehydrate you. By the time you feel thirsty, dehydration has already set in. Don’t let that happen. One of the best sun safety tips? Remember that water is your best friend. Keep it close by and sip it often, whether you’re walking, driving, or just sitting by the pool.
Also, the old measure of 6 to 8 glasses of water per day still applies – more if you’re doing any prolonged activity outside, even gardening. If you tend to sweat heavily, especially during exercise, you may want to mix Gatorade or another electrolyte replacement drink with your water. Avoid caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and soft drinks; they’ll just dehydrate you more.
Dress to protect.
Think of those old desert-themed movies you used to watch. Typically, people were covered from head to toe, and wore scarfs or wide-brimmed hats to protect themselves from the sun. Why weren’t they hot? Because the fabrics were lightweight, like cotton or linen (not polyester blends, which hold heat).
Take a cue from those movies and cover your arms, neck, chest, face, and feet throughout the summer months in breathable fabrics. For even greater comfort, check out the new fabrics available infused with UV protection and designed to wick away sweat. Don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat, and especially remember to wear eye protection. Be sure to choose sunglasses with lenses that block UVA and UVB rays to help reduce the cumulative effect of damage linked to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Don’t forget the sunscreen.
In the 15 minutes it takes to load clubs and other gear onto your golf cart, you can do a lot of damage to unprotected skin. Other than wearing long sleeves and a hat, sunscreen is your best defense against sunburn and skin cancer. Look for mineral sunscreen, indicated by ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide or a combination. Go for at least 30 SPF and make sure the formula is water-resistant. You can still get a little glow even wearing a higher SPF. Apply 15 to 30 minutes before heading out, and if you’re in the water, be sure to reapply frequently.
The best advice for summer fun? Schedule that golf or tennis game early in the morning or late in the afternoon/evening. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so temperatures tend to lower outside of this period.
Know heat stroke symptoms
You’re in the middle of a tennis game on a hot day. You start to feel lightheaded or nauseated. Maybe a bit disoriented. Your head aches. Your heart is pounding. STOP. You’re suffering from heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke. In this condition, your body is overwhelmed trying to control your internal temperature.
This is especially dangerous for older adults, so you need to act quickly. Have someone call 911. Meanwhile get help moving into a shady area or even better, into an air-conditioned room. Apply a cold, wet cloth to wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. If you have access to a cold shower, sit under it. If you can take sips of a drink, make it water or fruit juice. The paramedics will take over once they arrive.
Check your meds for sun sensitivity
Many of us don’t consider how the sun can negatively interact with our medications, but it happens! Several types of medications cause an increased sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays. These can include antihistamines, cholesterol-lowering drugs, pain relievers, diabetes medications and antibiotics. In some cases, the response is inflammatory, like an itchy or painful skin rash. Others can cause a more serious reaction, like muscle cramps or worse, heat stroke.
Be sure to review all medications with your doctor or pharmacist (including over-the-counter drugs and supplements) to ensure a safer summer. Smart tip: If a medication you must take has sun sensitivity, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or a medical alert pendant.
Be a super skin checker.
Dermatologists have three wishes. They want you to wear sunscreen, be cautious with sun exposure, and check yourself regularly for skin changes. If you’ve ever had a bad sunburn, your risk for skin cancer is already doubled. Resolve to do a weekly scan of your face, arms, legs, chest and back – all the places exposed regularly to the sun.
And remember your ABCDEs: look for moles that are Asymmetrical, have irregular Borders, have a strange Color, have a Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, or that have Evolved or changed in any way. While annual visits to the dermatologist are a great idea, if you see something suspicious, make an appointment right away.
Learn More About Knute Nelson’s Care Options
Seniors can enjoy life to the fullest in summer and every season with the help of Knute Nelson care services, living options, therapy and wellness services, and more. Complete your request form to explore what we can do to enrich your best years. We’ll be in touch with you soon!