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Summertime Health Tips for Seniors
Now that summer is here, many seniors are excited to enjoy the warm weather. After all, summer is the best time of year for outdoor activities like swimming, nature hiking, and picnicking.
However, there are a few things seniors need to be aware of while enjoying this summer. Here are some sun safety tips for seniors that they can use to be safe while having fun all summer long.
Protect the Skin From the Sun
One important sun safety tip for seniors is to always wear sunscreen when going outside. The sun’s rays can cause sunburns, sun spots, aging, cancer and pre-cancer, and some of these can lead to long-lasting health complications if they occur.1
Seniors are especially at risk for damage from the sun because their skin is more fragile. According to the CDC, 1 in 10 older adults were sunburned in the past year, with 20% of those being sun-sensitive adults.2
That means there are many seniors who aren’t properly protecting their skin from the sun outside, putting themselves at risk for sunburns and other skin-related conditions when it comes to sun exposure.
Even if it’s cloudy outside, the skin can still be damaged by the sun’s rays. While clouds block some of the sun’s UV rays, they don’t block all of them according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.3 It’s important for seniors to always protect their skin from the sun, even if they don’t believe that they will get sun damage.
The sunscreen that a senior should use depends on how long they decide that they will stay in the sun. Each sunscreen has a sun protectant factor (SPF), which is how much a sunscreen protects the skin from UVB (ultra-violet B) rays. Each brand of sunscreen has a different SPF, but generally experts recommend at minimum to use a sunscreen with a SPF of 15, which will protect the skin for about 150 minutes.4
If someone doesn’t have sunscreen on hand or wants to take extra precautions, other ideas for seniors to protect themselves from the sun include:
- Wearing a hat that covers the face
- Wearing long sleeves and long pants that cover the skin on the body
- Avoiding going outside during the hottest parts of the day
- Wearing sunglasses to protect the skin around the eyes
- Being cautious of medications that make the skin sensitive to the sun
Always Stay Hydrated When Going Outside
Another sun safety tip for seniors is to always make sure that they have water and are hydrated, especially as the weather gets hot.
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. A dehydrated body lacks the fluids it needs to perform everyday tasks. Older adults are more at risk for dehydration because they have a lower volume of water in their bodies.5
Some symptoms of dehydration include:6
- Dry or cool skin
- Muscle cramps
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Not going to the bathroom enough
With the weather being hot outside, the body will need to be hydrated more often. Before going outside, adults need 17 to 20 ounces of water. For each additional 10 to 20 minutes outside, an adult will need 7 to 10 ounces of water. After finishing an activity outside, adults need 24 ounces of water within the first two hours to prevent dehydration.7
The CDC recommends avoiding energy drinks as a source of hydration because they oftentimes contain more caffeine than coffee, tea, and soft drifts. The caffeine can affect the cardiovascular system in the long-term because it places a strain on the heart. The CDC also recommends to avoid alcohol because it causes dehydration.8
A few more sun safety tips for seniors that they can use to stay hydrated are:
- Always carry a water bottle. Whether a senior goes for a hike or enjoys the warm weather on the porch, keeping a water bottle can help them have water whenever they need it.
- Drink water regularly. Another tip to prevent dehydration in seniors is to make sure that they are drinking water regularly. Experts recommend that adults get roughly 15.5 cups of water for men and 11.5 cups of water for women.9
- Eat foods with water in them. Fruits, vegetables, and other foods that contain high water content can be used to aid in hydration. A senior who eats a well-balanced diet will be able to make sure that their body is hydrated all day long.
- Avoid drinks that dehydrate the body. Avoiding tea, coffee, and sugary drinks are all important to staying hydrated. These drinks dehydrate the body or prevent it from absorbing the water it needs to function.10 Seniors need to be mindful about what drinks they are consuming each day.
Always Wear Bug Spray
Bugs are more likely to come out now that the summer is here. The reason for this is bugs are poikilothermic, meaning they can’t regulate their body temperature, making them more likely to come out when it is warm outside.11
Because seniors have weaker immune systems, they are more prone to getting diseases that bugs may carry. It is important for seniors to make sure that they are properly protecting themselves from insects by wearing insect repellent and avoiding places where they are more likely to encounter dangerous bugs.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends using an insect repellent with at least 20-30% DEET to prevent bugs from biting open skin. If a senior is also wearing sunscreen, it is a best practice to let it dry first before applying the bug spray. The reason for this is bug spray is supposed to be applied sparingly.12
Some other ways seniors can protect themselves from bug bites include:
- Avoid wearing perfume or hand lotion that attracts bugs
- Wearing long sleeves to expose less skin, which reduces the chance of getting a bug bite
- Investing in a high quality bug spray
- Making sure that all windows and doors have screen protectors that keep bugs out
If a senior is bitten by a bug, it should immediately be treated. Some first aid tips for insect bites and stings, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:13
- Washing the affected area with soap and water
- Removing the stinger, if necessary
- Applying a damp towel or something filled with ice to help reduce the swelling/pain
- Apply hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or baking soda paste to the bug bite daily until symptoms go away
- Take an antihistamine such as Benadryl to reduce itching
If someone has a more severe case and they develop hives, a rapid heartbeat, nausea, or difficulty breathing, call 911.
We hope that seniors across the country are able to enjoy their summer while staying sun smart and protecting themselves from nature. After all, there’s nothing like enjoying the day at the pool or the park during the summer.
To learn more about Saber Healthcare and our services, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “How to Choose the Right Sunscreen.” Saber Healthcare Group, saberhealth.com. May 28th, 2021. Accessed June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.saberhealth.com/news/blog/how-to-choose-the-right-sunscreen
- “Many Older Adults Don’t Protect Their Skin From the Sun.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Page last reviewed October 24th, 2019. Accessed June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/research/articles/older-adults-protect-skin-sun.htm
- Holman, Tayla. “Can You Get a Sunburn on a Cloudy Day? And Other Less-Obvious Sun Safety Scenarios.” Dignity Health, dignityhealth.com. Published August 10th, 2016. Accessed June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.dignityhealth.org/articles/can-you-get-a-sunburn-on-a-cloudy-day-and-other-less-obvious-sun-safety-scenarios
- “What is SPF Sunscreen?” W. S. Badger Company, badgerbalm.com. Accessed June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.badgerbalm.com/pages/what-is-spf-sunscreen-sun-protection-factor
- “Dehydration.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayoclinic.com. Accessed September 19th, 2019. Link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
- Khatri, Minesh. “What is Dehydration? What Causes It?” WebMD LLC, webmd.com. Published May 20th, 2021. Accessed June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults
- Cornforth, Tracee. “How to Stay Cool and Hydrated on Hot Summer Days.” Dot Dash, Very Well Health. Published November 18th, 2019. Link: https://www.verywellhealth.com/staying-cool-and-hydrated-on-hot-summer-days-3522345
- “Heat Stress: Hydration.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2017-126. Accessed June 14th, 2021: Link: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/UserFiles/works/pdfs/2017-126.pdf
- “Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, mayoclinic.com. Published October 14th, 2020. Accessed June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256
- Conley, Madison. “3 kinds of drinks that actually dehydrate you — and why.” October 18th, 2018. June 14th, 2021. Insider Inc. insider.com. Link: https://www.insider.com/drinks-that-cause-dehydration-2018-10
- “Why are there more bugs in the summer?” Rocklin Pest Control, rocklinpestcontrol.com. Accessed June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.rocklinpestcontrol.com/why-are-there-more-bugs-in-the-summer/
- “TIPS TO PREVENT AND TREAT BUG BITES.” American Academy of Dermatology Association, aad.org. June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin/bites/prevent-treat-bug-bites
- “Insect bites and stings: First aid.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, mayoclinic.com. Published February 17th, 2018. Accessed June 14th, 2021. Link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-insect-bites/basics/art-20056593