Summer is in full swing, but as we step out to soak in more vitamin D, it’s important to remember that with great weather comes great responsibility. Since July is UV Safety Awareness Month, we’ve compiled a list of safety tips on how seniors can prevent prolonged sun exposure that might have negative effects on their health.
Get to Know the UV Ray
Responsible for tans and sunburns, ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a form of non-ionizing radiation emitted by the sun and artificial sources like tanning beds. UV radiation is classified into three types:
Ultraviolet A (UVA)
Ultraviolet B (UVB)
Ultraviolet C (UVC)
Each UV classification is based on the measure of its wavelength. Because UVC radiation is completely absorbed by the ozone layer and atmosphere, it does not pose a risk. UVA and UVB however, can impact your loved one’s health.
Benefits of UV Radiation
When skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D. UVB rays interact with a protein in the skin to produce vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D.
This “active” version helps the body absorb calcium, which enables the mineralization of bone that is required for strong, healthy bones. Additionally, vitamin D gives an important boost to our immune systems.
Why Seniors Shouldn’t Skip UV Protection
Even though there are clear benefits to UV radiation, seniors need sun protection because cumulative damage puts them at higher risk for skin cancer.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the higher the average lifespan in the industrial world, the more likely individuals are to develop skin cancer. Most skin cancers result from cumulative sun damage, and because seniors have lived longer, they’ve had the most sun exposure and sustained the most damage from UV light.
As our loved ones age, their abilities to fight off skin disease diminish because of reduced immune systems, poor healing capacity, thinner skin and damage from smoking and pollution. Furthermore, two types of skin aging are linked to skin cancer:
Intrinsic: Over time, skin will lose its water and fat content — becoming thinner, thus allowing UV light to penetrate deeply. Intrinsic aging is a natural process and genetics play a role in this.
Extrinsic: This type of skin aging is often preventable because it’s caused by external factors like pollution, poor diet and prolonged UV exposure. UV light breaks down the skin’s elasticity, resulting in wrinkles, sagging, discoloration and blotchiness.
How to Practice Sun Safety
For those that love spending time outdoors, there’s good news: heat-related illnesses and skin cancer are almost entirely preventable. Here are a few ways to keep yourself and your senior loved one safe from the sun.
Use sunscreen - Apply a thick layer of broad spectrum sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside even on cloudy or overcast days. Make sure the sunscreen SPF is at least 15 or higher. Reapply every two hours after swimming, sweating or toweling off. If the tops of the feet are uncovered, don’t forget to apply sunscreen there, too.
Stay covered - This might seem counterintuitive, but wearing a layer of loose-fitting clothing can provide a protective layer and keep you cool on hot days. Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect the face and eyes.
Hydrate - Some seniors might slow or stop their fluid intake before heading out because they’re afraid of having an accident or needing to use the facilities frequently. Encourage them to drink anyway even before they feel thirsty.
Stay in the shade - Seek shady areas to cool down or set up a beach umbrella. If possible, stay in the shade during midday hours.
Check medication - Before heading out, be sure to read the fine print on your family member’s prescriptions. Not all medications interact well with the sun and could lead to other health issues.
Timing - When it comes to proper sun protection, timing is everything. UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try scheduling activities in the early morning or late afternoon.
Peace of Mind
With Presidio Home Care Aides, you can have peace of mind knowing your family members can still have fun in the sun without compromising their safety.
Whether it’s scheduling activities, reminding them to hydrate or providing companionship, our Home Care Aides can safely assist your loved one with anything they need. Contact your local office today.