July is UV Safety Month: Sun and heat safety for seniors

Protect Older Adults and Others from UV and Additional Summer Dangers

beach umbrellas

July in the summer–a great time to be outdoors having fun in the New Jersey sun! At the same time, the sun’s heat and rays can be dangerous, especially for older adults–if the proper precautions aren’t taken. It’s important to be aware of the risks of summer’s dangers. Below are tips to protect yourself from skin cancer, hazards to the eyes, and heat stress.

Skin Cancer

UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun are the primary cause of skin cancer and is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. Damage from UV rays can also be the cause of wrinkles and blotchy skin. Older people have an even larger risk of getting skin cancer since their immune systems are weaker and aren’t able to fight infections and abnormal cell growth as easily as younger people.

Ways to protect your skin:

  • Avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm (peak danger zone)
  • Use sunscreens with protection of SPF 15 or more
  • Protect yourself by wearing hats and long sleeves
  • Do regular checks of your skin for any changes

Damage to the Eyes

UV rays can also damage eyes, causing serious conditions (perhaps blinding) such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Ways to protect your eyes:

  • Wear sunglasses which block 100% of UV rays
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, in addition to your sunglasses

Heat Stress

Seniors are particularly prone to heat stress in the hot summer months. Be sure to check on your older friends, neighbors, and relatives to see they are drinking lots of cool, non-alcoholic liquids and are in an air-conditioned building when the weather is over 90 degrees. Over-exposure to sun and heat can lead to dehydration, heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

UV index scaleSymptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Pulse rate: fast & shallow
  • Breathing: fast & shallow

If you or someone you’re with is experiencing heat exhaustion, get to a cool, shady area immediately. Drink cool fluids such as water or Gatorade. If you’re not feeling better soon, call 911.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Extremely high body temperature (103°+)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

If you have heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Move to a shady, cool area and take off weighty clothing. Lower your temperature by covering yourself with cool water. Drink cool liquids.

For more information about staying safe in the summer, download our July Community Resource Bulletin. It contains Co-owner and Managing Director Nora de Cárdenas’ article “Protecting Older Adults During the Dog Days of Summer,” UV Safety Facts from the Vision Council, the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging’s flyer on Hot Weather Safety Tips, and a sun safety crossword.