Staying Safe in the Sun: Tips for Seniors
It is so important for everyone, seniors included, to get out and soak up some sun. You will get your daily dose of vitamin D, boost your mental health, and have some fun.
It's also important to exercise caution when you do head out for some sunshine. Protecting yourself from excessive sun exposure is essential for people of all ages, but it can be life-saving for those over 65.
Too much sun can lead to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses, and someone in their advanced years may not have the strength or good health needed to fight those illnesses.
Heat stroke and Heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion happens after long periods spent in the heat and humidity. This heat-related illness can occur to someone who is older, even with light activity while in the heat.
Signs of heat exhaustion to watch for
Cold clammy skin
Signs of dehydration like muscle cramps, faint pulse, headache, dizziness
Heat stroke happens when the body heats up rapidly and isn't able to cool off. Older adults are not able to adjust to body temperature changes as well as they used to be.
It's important that you know the signs of a heat stroke and to always be on the lookout for them.
Signs to watch for include
Excessive tiredness/ lethargy
Lack of sweating
If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms, you must seek medical attention.
Be generous with the sunscreen
Applying and reapplying sunscreen is always the number one tip for anyone spending some time in the sun. You can become sunburnt so quickly and not even realize it. Applying sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplying it every few hours can save you from a nasty burn.
When you are picking out a sunscreen, it is always a good idea to go with a broad-spectrum formula with a high SPF. It's also important to check the expiration date on your sunscreen if you're using one you have had for a while.
Wear protective clothing
When picking out your outfit for your day in the sun, it is important to pick a lighter, breathable material, as well as a lighter color to help reflect the light instead of absorbing it.
It would help if you tried to cover up as much as possible. If it's not sweltering hot, a long-sleeved shirt and pants will give more sun protection along with a layer of sunscreen.
Don't forget your sunglasses and a hat. A wide-brimmed hat can help to protect your face and neck from the sun.
Find some shade
Seeking out shade is a good idea when spending time outside, especially during extended amounts of time or on scorching days.
You can look for a tree to sit under, a canopy, or bring an umbrella with you to make your own shade.
If it is a particularly hot day, it may be a good idea to stay inside during peak hours for heat. Peak hours fall between 10 am to 2 pm, the sun will be shining at its brightest and hottest.
Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration overall. Being mindful to drink plenty of water while spending time in the sun can be a life saver.
Be sure to always have a water bottle with you and avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks; they tend to be dehydrating. Sip on the water throughout the day even if you don't feel thirsty.
If you really don't like the taste of plain water, you can jazz it up with some fruit. You can experiment with different berries, melons, citrus fruits, and herbs to find something refreshing and delicious.
It's important to know what medications you are taking and how they might affect you. Some medications warn users to avoid excessive sun exposure.
If you are taking a medication that increases your sensitivity to the sun, wearing a high SPF sunscreen, seeking shade, and limiting your time outside is necessary.
If you are unsure, a quick call to your doctor or pharmacist can help you with any questions.
Turn on the air
If you have an AC or central air, it is important to utilize them, especially during a heat wave. You don't want your home to get too hot and risk having a heat stroke.
If you do not have any means to cool down your home, head out to somewhere that is cooler, like a mall, a friend's house or a recreation center during the day to help beat the heat.
Know when you have had enough
Some people could live on a sun-soaked beach, but as we age, our skin gets thinner, we don't have as much fat under the skin, and our tolerance to heat gets lower. Know your limits, and understand that it's time to head in after a few hours in the sun. You can go to a restaurant or movie to break up the time spent in the sun, but spending excessive amounts of time in the heat and the sunlight can put you at risk for heat-related illnesses.
Watch for changes in your skin
It takes one good sunburn in your early years to increase your risk of skin cancer as a senior.
Keeping an eye on your skin and protecting it as much as possible from burns can help ward off skin cancer. If you happen to notice any new moles or changes in existing ones, it's a good idea to reach out to your doctor for further examination.
Protecting yourself from the sun and heat is essential as we advance in age. Taking the time to apply sunscreen, fill your water bottle, and plan your day accordingly can save you from a trip to the hospital.