Summer is in full swing here in Volusia County and with it comes extreme heat and humidity. 40% of all heat-related fatalities are to people over 65, according research from the University of Chicago Medical Center. We all know that seniors are especially vulnerable to heat-related conditions, but did you seniors are also at an increased risk for developing skin cancer? With some precautionary tips, you can beat the heat and stay summer smart.
Summer Sun Risks for Seniors
Increased Risk for Skin Cancer- While seniors might not be as concerned about sun damage aging their skin as they once did in their thirties, they still should be aware of the increased risk for developing skin cancer. According to a 2009 study from the University College London, skin is less able to protect itself from skin cancer as it ages. Older skin attracts less repairing T cells, therefore damaged areas of skin are more susceptible to infections and cancer.
Increased Risk for Heat-related Conditions- Seniors are especially vulnerable to the dangers of rising temperatures such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and fatigue. Seniors are less able to regulate their body temperature and adapt to the heat. Medications can inhibit their ability to perspire, as well as increase their risk for dehydration.
Senior Sun Dos and Don’ts
- Do look for shade- get into the habit of staying out of the direct sunlight. Find a shady overhang, umbrella, or tree when spending time outdoors.
- Do dress for the weather- Look for light colors and cooler fabrics, especially ones with built in UV protection.
- Do wear your sunglasses- It is just as important to block damaging rays from your eyes. UV rays are also linked to cataracts.
- Do pack the sun hat- a wide brimmed hat is a must have fashion statement if you are going to be in the sun. A sun hat keeps the direct sunlight off your neck, face, and tops of your ears.
- Do stay hydrated- Aim for 6-8 glasses of water per day. Older adults are more vulnerable to dehydration and lose their ability to feel thirst. Don’t wait for your body to remind you to stay hydrated, bring a water bottle with you so you never go without.
- Do review your medications- Ask your doctor or pharmacists if any medications you are taking makes you more sensitive to UV rays or affects your ability to sweat. Many people overlook these side effects.
- Don’t forget the sunblock- SPF 30 should be part of your daily regiment, whether you are staying in or going out. A common mistake people make is not reapplying after 2 hours or right after swimming or heavy sweating.
- Don’t plan outings at times of days when heat is extreme- The sun’s rays are their strongest in the middle of the day, usually between 10 a.m and 4 p.m. Plan walks and outings outdoors for early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
- Don’t overexert yourself physically outdoors- Summer is not the time to be playing 18 holes of golf or spending the afternoon doing yard work. Limit your activity outside to shorter periods of time. Consider hiring someone to help with outside home maintenance during summer months and if possible move your exercise indoors or to the pool. Some great options include joining a gym, walking around the shopping mall, or taking a water aerobics class.
- Don’t ignore warning signs- Seniors have difficulty adjusting to changes in temperature, and the summer heat can cause life-threatening conditions such heat stroke, exhaustion, and fatigue. Don’t ignore symptoms such as lack of sweating, headache, flushed face, heavy breathing, nausea, vomiting, agitation, fainting, dizziness, rapid pulse, and high body temperature.
Stayed tuned to the County Health Care Guide Blog to learn more about assisted-living, senior care, senior placement, and important senior news in Volusia County. From Daytona to Port Orange to New Smyrna Beach, the County Health Care Guide is the only resource you need.