The Summertime Sun and Heat Can be Deadly

It is always a good idea to protect your skin from the sun, but in the summer months it pays dividends to be extra cautious of the sun.  Ultraviolet rays can damage your skin in 15 minutes. No matter your age, take extra steps to be safe this summer and protect yourself from the sunshine. 

If you fail to take care of your skin, you could end up with skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States.  The American Cancer Society estimates 91,270 new cases of Melanoma will be diagnosed in 2018 and 60 percent of those will be men. 

As we get older, the odds of us getting skin cancer become greater.  The Skin Cancer Foundation reports 40 to 50 percent of Americans who live to be 65 will have at least one skin cancer during their lifetime. One misconception by our older adults is they believe the damage has already been done to their skin, so why bother taking care of it.  The experts don't think it is ever too late and offer several good tips for your sun safety:

  • Sunscreen - Apply a good water resistant 30 SPF sunscreen to your body 30 minutes prior to going outdoors. Even if its cloudy, the physicians say to apply sunscreen then too. Once you've been outside for two hours, it is a good idea to reapply. If you are sweating or spending time in the pool, you should reapply every hour.  Applying sunscreen is the easiest way to prevent skin cancer, but the statistics show 86 percent of American men and 70 percent of American women fail to apply sunscreen when outside longer than an hour.

  • Protective clothing - Wear a big brimmed hat, loose fitting, protective clothing and ultraviolet-filtering sunglasses. There are no guarantees, but plenty of sunscreen and this gear will go a long way in helping you stay healthy.

  • Right time of day - Avoid outdoor activities between 10 AM and 4 PM. If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is at maximum strength.  As you might imagine, this is the hottest time of the day, so steer clear during these times. 

  • Made for the shade - If outdoors, find cooler spots and spend more time in the shady areas if possible.

A tip that I learned the hard way, be careful when taking medications. Certain blood pressure drugs, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun. I took an antibiotic one morning before going out to the beach, a short time later I had serious sun blisters on my face.  Those blisters really worried everyone in my family, but thankfully after a couple days my condition improved.

Previously, we wrote a blog about the importance of seniors paying attention to weather conditions in the summer.  In addition to protecting your skin, the most important summertime tip in the article is to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids.  When you are outdoors in the heat, your body may lose more water than it takes in and you can easily become dehydrated.  Being dehydrated is dangerous especially for our older adults. Sometimes when we are engaged in activities or projects outdoors, we forget to drink fluids.  Medical professionals will tell us, if we don't remember to play by the rules and hydrate, we will pay for it.

Seniors must know that their water reserves become smaller as they age and their sense of thirst decreases putting them at greater risk.  It is vital that our older Americans take care of their bodies from the sun and the heat. When the thermometer hits that 90 plus reading, things can get out of hand quickly if we don't monitor our health. 

If you do happen to get sunburn like I did, there isn't a quick fix.  The Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • Keep it cool - apply cold compressors or a damp cool towel.
  • Keep it moist - apply a moisturizing cream or aloe.
  • Leave blisters intact - don't break the blisters. If you break the blisters, it slows the healing process and they may become subject to infection.
  • Take over-the-counter pain reliever - taking anti inflammatory medications help such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Treat peeling skin gently-after a few days the skin may begin to peel. Continue using a moisturizer.

After a day in the sun, take time to treat yourself to a glass of ice cold Gatorade, a cool bath and a nice evening in the air condition.



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