How to stay safe in the summer sun

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Summer is here! Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is important at any age, but the risk of skin cancer increases for seniors, as they have experienced more sun exposure over time (Cancer Treatment Centers of America). Those who live in more arid regions with greater amounts of direct sunlight, as well as those who are immunocompromised are also at a greater risk for skin cancer.

We should all know the basics, but there are plenty of additional ways to ensure your safety and protection while enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. As an older adult, it’s important to use precaution when being out in the sun. Here are some other tips to consider.

Use sunscreen

It may seem obvious to use sunscreen, but it’s also an easy thing to forget when rushing out the door. The CDC recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 15 SPF or higher, and the American Cancer Society recommends that seniors use a sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher. Remember, even if it seems overcast, clouds filter less than 25% of the sun’s harmful rays, so it’s still wise to wear your sunscreen.

Ideally you should put sunscreen on before you go outside and repeatedly throughout your day. As a rule of thumb, apply sunscreen every two hours while being outdoors. However, if you are swimming or exercising, you should apply a new layer more often.

Pack protective clothing

Whether you’re headed to the park, golf course, beach or even your backyard – chances are you could wind up in an area with little to no shade. While sunscreen is a great first step, adding sunglasses, a hat, headscarf or a light shawl can help to keep you protected in the sun, and feel more comfortable in general.

Wide brim hats work well to shield more of your head and face. A light scarf can help to protect exposed arms and shoulders. You can even find apparel designed with UV protectant fabrics, such as Coolibar which offers UV hats and clothing for a variety of activities.

Stay hydrated

“Seniors are particularly at risk of becoming dehydrated, “said Dr. Michael Manka, medical director for Elderwood Health Plan. “This is especially true during the hot and humid summer weather, when fluid losses increase due to sweating.”

It’s important to make sure you are staying hydrated in the heat. If you plan to be outside for an extended period, bring along an insulated water jug or a cooler with water, flavored water or electrolyte beverages.

Review your medications

Are you wondering what medication has to do with enjoying a beautiful day in the sun? Certain medications can heighten your sensitivity to sunlight and increase your risk for sunburns or allergic reactions. The FDA outlines several of these medications, some of which are very common. When in doubt, it’s best to review the labels on your medications and discuss any questions with your doctor.

Know when to stay inside

Every now and then it’s just too hot and humid to spend time outside safely. While no one wants to miss an outing, there are times when the risk outweighs the benefits. If you experience trouble walking, breathing or feel at risk of fainting, it’s best to stay inside and keep cool with fans or air conditioning. For specific questions regarding your personal health and ability to spend time in the heat and sun, be sure to talk with your doctor and limit your sun exposure as needed.

Following these tips can help you enjoy the summer season while keeping your health and safety in mind.