All of us want to enjoy the beautiful, hot sun during the summer months in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, the summer sunshine, UV rays and heat also can bring a few dangers, especially for seniors, including sunburn, eye damage, dehydration, heat exhaustion and more.
With some precautionary steps and healthy senior personal care, everyone can enjoy the blue skies and warm weather. The following are some TIPS on how to protect your skin from the sun to avoid skin cancer, protect your eyes, and stay healthy on those days spent outdoors. Your skin is a precious organ that needs tender loving care that only you can provide!
- Use a sunscreen that has at least 15 or higher SPF (sun protection factor). For elderly with fragile, sensitive or pale skin, 30 SPF is recommended.
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going into the sun if possible. Apply sunscreen to all of the skin that will be exposed. Re-apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. Apply immediately after swimming or exercise. You should use sunscreen on any sunny day, even in fall and winter.
- Stay out of the midday sun if possible. Find shade between 10 AM and 4PM. Use the shadow rule: A shadow that is longer than you means UV (ultraviolet) exposure is low; a shadow that is shorter than you means that the UV exposure is high. UV rays are the dangerous ones that cause sun burn and skin cancer.
- Wear a hat with wide 4 inch brims that cover your neck, ears, eyes and scalp.
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses with UVA and UVB ray protection. Glasses reduce the cumulative effect of damage linked to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Use lip-balm or cream that has an SPF of 15 or higher to protect your lips from getting chaffed, sunburned or developing cold sores.
- Turn on your air conditioning: Air conditioning is important when it is hot and humid outside. During a heat wave, if you don’t have central air or a room air conditioner, spend part or most of each day at locations with air condition, including a friend’s house, shopping mall, senior center, or movie theater.
- Watch for heat stroke: It is extremely important to watch for signs of heat stroke, especially for seniors. Some signs to look for include confusion, disorientation, dry skin, excessive tiredness, headache, lethargy, nausea, and a rapid pulse. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
- Check on friends and family: Use the rising temperatures as an opportunity to catch up with your neighbors and relatives, especially the elderly and those who do not have air conditioning. Plan outings together in places that have air conditioning.
- Review your medications: Many seniors use medications daily. Some medications can cause side effects, like increased sensitivity to UV rays. Review all medications and check with a doctor or pharmacist for any questions.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Aim to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. For seniors, the feeling of thirst decreases as we age, so be sure to increase your water intake if you are exercising or doing any type of prolonged physical activity. Of those fluids you are taking in, be sure they are non-alcoholic and decaffeinated. Carbonated sodas and pops may taste good, but they will only further your dehydration
General Sunburn Safety
If you do get sunburned, your skin may become warm, red, and blistered (in extreme cases). The area may be painful and feel itchy at times. If the pain is too much, the CDC recommends aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. A cool shower or bath may also relieve the pain. Aloe Vera gels or creams can soothe and moisturize the skin after the bath. Since sunburns can dehydrate your body, increase your fluid intake for the next two to three days. You can also use cold water and ice packs to ease the pain and relieve swelling and redness to the affected areas. Never burst or pop blisters that form, this can increase your chances of an infection. In severe cases that do not heal with the above remedies, make sure you see your doctor.
General Skin Safety
Regularly inspect your skin in the mirror or with help from your doctor. Report skin abnormalities to your doctor such as:
- Rashes that do not go away
- Changes in the shape or size of a mole
- Abnormal redness, blistering, or bruising over a bony area
- Rashes that are raised, red or have scaly patches