July is National Sun Safety Month
Summer is a time for enjoying the great outdoors! Unfortunately, the summer sunshine, UV rays and heat also can bring a few dangers for seniors, including sunburn, eye damage, dehydration, heat exhaustion and more. Here are some great tips that the elderly, as well as their caregivers, can use to make sure they have a fun, safe summer.
A few Summer Safety Tips for the Elderly:
- 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.
- Pick the right outfit with accessories: When possible, wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored long sleeves to help protect your skin from sun, while also allowing your skin to breathe. Use wide brimmed hats to keep the sun off of your face and neck, as well as full coverage (wrap around) sunglasses for the best eye protection. Glasses that block UVA and UVB rays can help reduce the cumulative effect of damage linked to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- 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..
- Be an early bird or night owl: The sun is strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. If you must be outside during a summer heat wave, limit your outdoor activity to the morning and the evening, when the temperature is lower and the sun is less intense.
- 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 ultraviolet (UV) rays. Review all medications and check with a doctor or pharmacist for any questions.
- Wear sunscreen: Sunscreen is a major component to preventing sunburns. Look for a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and also have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more. Be sure to apply it about 15-30 minutes before exposure. If you’re enjoying water activities, be sure to reapply your sunscreen frequently.
- Know the Risks of Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke): During the summer, be particularly cautious about abnormally high body temperatures - a condition known as hyperthermia. Heat stroke is an advanced form of hyperthermia that can be life-threatening. Make sure to know the warning signs and get medical attention immediately if you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms:
- Body temperature greater than 104 degrees
- A change in behaviour, such as acting confused, agitated or grouchy
- Dry, flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heavy breathing or a rapid pulse
- Not sweating, even if it's hot out
Elderly individuals have a harder time knowing when they are dehydrated and their bodies have more difficulty regulating their temperatures. As a result, they are more prone to heat stroke.
If you (or an elderly loved one) start to feel any of these symptoms, ask for medical help and then get out of the heat, lie down and place ice packs on your body.
The ADRC of Dane County provides information about resources and support on all aspects of life related to aging or living with a disability and is a one-stop shop for older adults, people with disabilities and their families. ADRC staff are unbiased and knowledgeable professionals who listen to your concerns, help clarify your options and direct you to appropriate resources. The ADRC is also the access point for information about long-term care options and applying for public benefits. Services provided by the ADRC are free and available to all Dane County residents regardless of income or assets.
ADRC staff are available weekdays from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by calling 608-240-7400. Individuals can also send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org, drop by our office on North Sherman Avenue or visit us at www.daneadrc.org. Home visits are available upon request.