Sun safety is important for all of us, yet “less than half of older adults protect their skin from the sun when outside for an hour or more on a warm, sunny day.” Though you may not feel the damage the sun is causing to your skin as it is happening, the long-term effects are there.
Community Senior Life knows that spending time in the sun with friends and family provides many benefits; however, if you do not use caution, these benefits are easily outweighed by the damage the sun can inflict. We have gathered research and tips to help you enjoy the sun and stay safe!
Understanding Your Risk Factors
“Most cases of skin cancer are found in people older than 65 years of age.”
Your chances of developing skin cancer increase as you age. Furthermore, other factors can contribute to your risk increasing, including:
- The color of your hair and your eyes
- And, whether you are fair-skinned or not
If you have a paler complexion, you are more sensitive to the sun. Moreover, people with light hair and eyes have a higher risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, and other sun-related issues.
However, it is important to note that individuals with darker-toned skin, hair, and eyes are still at risk of the damaging side effects of the sun.
Check Effects of Medications
Some prescriptions cause sun sensitivity, which is a vital sun safety tip for seniors since they are likely to be on more than one medication at a time. For example, diabetes and heart medications are known to cause sun sensitivity.
According to Anna D. Gaunche, M.D., “There are medicines that exacerbate sun sensitivity…If you are taking one of these medications, seeking shade and high SPF sunscreens are advised…In case of severe sensitivity, sun avoidance altogether may be necessary.”
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your medications and what level of sun protection he or she recommends.
Be Aware of Early Signs of Heat Stroke
According to Mayo Clinic, “In adults over 65, the central nervous system begins to deteriorate, which makes your body less able to cope with changes in body temperature.” This can lead to a heat stroke. When spending time in the sun, it is important to be mindful of early symptoms of a heat stroke.
These symptoms can include:
- High body temperature
- Altered mental state or behavior
- Alteration in sweating
- Flushed skin
- Rapid breathing
- Racing heart rate
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention, and cool down as best as possible. Seek shade or go indoors, take off unnecessary clothing, and drink cool liquids.
Stay in the Shade
Seeking shade whenever in direct sunlight is a great way to reduce your risk of skin damage. Use an umbrella or canopy when on the beach, a tree in the park, or whatever other natural shade is available where you are exposed to the sun.
The most prevalent tip of sun safety for seniors is to apply and reapply sunscreen. When used in addition to other skincare practices, sunscreen is effective at preventing sun damage to your skin. When choosing a sunscreen, use a broad spectrum with at least SPF 15. Apply sunscreen any time your skin is exposed to the sun; this includes cool, cloudy days. Do not forget to reapply every couple of hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Wear Protective Clothing
[“Seniors have thinner skin and less cushion and protection from sun damage. The threat to tears and ulcerative skin lesions for this fragile skin is worsened as well.”]
A physical barrier of protection from the sun is often preferred over sunscreen alone. Dress in long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever possible. Dark-colored clothing made out of tightly-woven fabric provides the most protection.
Furthermore, wearing a wide-brimmed hat protects your ears, neck, and face. Again, a hat made out of tightly-woven fabric works best. Sunglasses shield your eyes and protect against cataracts. Additionally, sunglasses “protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.”
Community Senior Life, with retirement communities throughout Alabama, wants you to enjoy spending time in the sun with friends and family, but you need to protect yourself. Find a Community Senior Life community that caters to the sun-filled lifestyle you desire!