Sun Safety for Seniors

Written by: Jessica Moreau RN

As we age, our skin changes. Our skin becomes more susceptible to damage from the harmful UV rays from the sun. The skin will begin to lose its turgor and wrinkles emerge. Individuals with thinner skin are more likely to develop sun-related skin problems, such as irritations, sun spots, and in some cases, benign or malignant skin lesions.

It’s important for seniors to get out and enjoy the sun, but they need to exercise extra caution when it comes to sun exposure. So how can seniors keep their skin safe while soaking up the Vitamin D?

HOW SENIORS CAN ENJOY THE SUN WHILE STAYING SAFE

Stay hydrated

When you’re in the sun, it can be easy to get dehydrated. In fact, you might not even notice you’re thirsty until you’re already dehydrated. Make sure to always have water on hand when you’re outside or in the car. You don’t have to drink it all at once – just be sure to sip throughout the day. If you tend to sweat more, consider an electrolyte replacement drinks (with salt and potassium) to replenish your sweat. Be mindful of the sugar content, however!

Cover up

If your skin isn’t exposed to the sun, it won’t burn. Covering up also provides protection from the harmful UV rays. Look for fabrics that will help to block the sun and keep you cool. Just make sure you’re dressed to handle the heat, but still keep your skin safe. You don’t want to be too hot, so it’s a good idea to dress in layers. If you don’t already, consider wearing a hat whenever you’re out in the sun; it will help protect your scalp and face from sunburns.

Use sunscreen

It’s easy to forget to put on sunscreen before you go out, but it’s a vital step in keeping your skin safe from skin cancer. Make it a habit to apply sunscreen whenever you step outside, even if it’s just for a short time. It’s also a good idea to carry it with you in your bag, so you can reapply if you’ve been out for a while. When you choose a sunscreen, SPF 30 rating is the minimum you should use, especially for prolonged exposure. If you are worried about chemicals in sunscreens, look for natural formulas. Here are some recommended ones!

Protect your eyes

Sunglasses are another important part of sun protection! The eyes can be extra sensitive for many seniors, especially those with vision problems. Wearing sunglasses can help shield your eyes from damaging rays. Make sure you choose sunglasses with 100% UV protection, or UV 400 rating, as these are the types of lenses that will actually protect your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun. If you wear prescription glasses, chat with your optometrist to see if you would benefit from prescription sun glasses – pun intended.

Keep cool

It’s easy for seniors to get overheated on hot days. Try to find a shady spot to sit when you’re outside and stay out of direct sunlight. On extra hot days, try to limit your time outside and take breaks indoors when you can. You can also try to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10am to 4pm when penetration of harmful rays is at its highest. If your home doesn’t have central air, consider investing in a portable air conditioner unit, or purchase some fans. It is easy to become overheated indoors when it is 30 degrees Celsius or higher outside.

Look for skin changes

Just one bad sunburn early in life can potentially double the risk of skin cancer as a senior. This is why it’s especially important to watch for changes in the skin for seniors. If you notice any changes, tell your doctor right away. What should you look for? A handy way to remember it is to look for the ABCDEs: look for moles that are Asymmetrical, have irregular Borders, have a strange Colour, have a Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, or that have Evolved or changed in any way. If you are unsure about a spot on your skin, make sure you contact your GP or dermatologist so they can have a look!

In the mean time, cover up, stay cool and wear the sunscreen! Enjoy the sunny weather.

About the author:
Jessica is a Registered Nurse Psychotherapist and Intake Specialist at Freiheit Care Inc. She has been with Freiheit Care Inc since its inception. She has experience in community nursing and palliative care. Jess sees customers for psychotherapy sessions & initial intake assessments.

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