UV Safety Tips for Seniors

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Woman putting on sunscreen under a beach umbrella.
Published:  July 8, 2024

Nothing may be better than spending time outside with loved ones on a beautiful, sunny day. And being outside has a lot of benefits, from helping your body produce vitamin D to lowering your anxiety and stress. But it’s important to take some precautions. Seniors should protect themselves from harmful radiation, including ultraviolet (UV) sunlight. After all, every time you step outside, even on cloudy days, there’s a risk for dangers like skin cancer.

Risks of sun exposure

Older adults are at higher risk of harm from sun exposure because as skin ages, it often thins. And since thinner skin offers less protection against UV rays, sun damage can happen faster than in younger skin.

The dangers of sun exposure aren’t limited to annoying sunburns. Repeated, unprotected exposure can lead to serious damage to your skin, eyes, and immune system, including skin cancer. More than five million people are treated for skin cancer every year in the United States. Most of these are older adults. Yet, sadly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than half of older adults protect their skin from the sun.

Beyond skin cancer, sun exposure can also lead to burns, sunspots, wrinkles, and lost elasticity.

How to stay safe in the sun

Aside from checking regularly for new spots or moles and visiting a dermatologist for an annual skin cancer screening, there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself — or your loved one — while still enjoying time in the sun. 

As the weather warms up, follow these simple tips to guard against sun damage: 

  • Choose protective clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face, choose sunglasses that protect your eyes from harmful radiation, consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants, and look for clothing with built-in UV protection.
  • Stay out of the sun in the middle of the day. Midday is when UV radiation is at its peak. Plan for your outdoor time earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon and evening.
  • Stick to the shade. If you find yourself outside in the middle of the day (or for an extended period at other times), do your best to stay in the shade.
  • Take extra care around sand and water. UV rays can reflect powerfully off some surfaces, including sand and snow. Make sure to reapply sunscreen in these environments regularly.
  • Wear sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen with at least SPF15. Look for labels that include both UVA and UVB or broad-spectrum radiation blocking. Apply it to any exposed skin before you head into the sun and reapply every two hours. Don’t forget your lips — use a lip balm with SPF.

We’re here with help when you need it

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. With just a few precautions, you can keep yourself — or your favorite senior — safe while still enjoying a summer day. When you need tips or a little extra support, the caring providers at Traditions Home Health are ready to help.

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