We all look forward to enjoying the sun during the warm days of summer. But this pleasure can be risky for older adults. Here are the three reasons why:
Are you safe in the sun?
- Many older adults were frequent sunbathers in the days before the relationship between skin cancer and sun rays were known. Early over-exposure to the sun can result in skin cancer in later years. While this is true of all skin types, people with very fair skin are the most vulnerable.
- As you grow older you become more vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Medications (prescribed or over-the-counter) and certain health conditions can also make you more vulnerable to negative affects of the sun.
Nine Ways to Be Safer
- See a dermatologist yearly for a full-body screening for skin cancer.
- Ask your doctor about how your health conditions and prescription or over-the-counter medications can affect you in the sun and heat.
- Drink plenty of water, even if you're not thirsty. Aim for 6 to 8 glasses daily. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Avoid the midday sun when possible. In North America, for example, the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is true even on a cloudy day.
- Exercise indoors or in the earliest hours of the day.
- Wear protective clothing that covers your limbs, and a broad-brimmed sun hat. Use sun glasses that are specially designed to protect your eyes from dangerous sun rays.
- Use sunscreen—everyday, all year long. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects the skin from both ultra violet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays with an SPF of 30 or more. It should be water resistant for up to 40 or 80 minutes (sunscreens can no longer claim to be waterproof or sweat proof).
- Use air conditioning when it's hot and humid outside. If you don't have one, spend as much time as possible at a location that does.
- Watch for heat stroke. Some signs are confusion, excessive tiredness, headache, rapid pulse. If any of these symptoms appear, seek immediate medical attention.