By the time summer finally rolls around, you’re antsy to get outdoors and replenish your vitamin D after the long Minnesota winter. Daily doses of sunshine are crucial to mental and physical wellbeing. Exposure to sunlight boosts serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, memory, and appetite. Sunshine also strengthens your immune system and can lower blood pressure. However, overexposure can be harmful. But as long as you keep a few simple precautions in mind, you can enjoy the summer sunshine carefree.
Here are some sun safety tips to let you enjoy the summer sunshine without worry:
Lather up. Applying sunscreen early and often (every two hours) will protect your skin against harsh UV rays that can cause sunburn or cancer. Your sunscreen should be at least 15 SPF, though higher is better.
Dress up. Although it’s hot out, the best clothing to wear when you go outside is light, loose-fitting shirts with long sleeves. The sleeves will offer some sun protection, and the breathable fabric will still help you stay cool. Wide-brimmed hats are also a good idea to shield your face from the sun.
Shade up. When you’re getting dressed to go outside, don’t forget your sunglasses! Seniors have highly sensitive eyes, and wearing sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the cumulative damage that causes age-related eye problems like cataracts and muscular degeneration. Wrap-around models offer the best protection from UVA and UVB rays.
Drink up. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. As we age, we don’t experience as much sensation of thirst, so it becomes especially important to be conscious about drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid alcoholic and carbonated beverages when spending time outside. As tasty and refreshing as they are, they will only dehydrate you more.
Turn it up. Don’t be shy about cranking up the AC. During heat waves, it’s important to spend a good portion of each day in the air conditioning to avoid getting overheated—especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is strongest. Save outdoor activities for early morning or evening.
Look it up. Before engaging in any outdoor activities, review your medications with your doctor. Some prescriptions cause increased sensitivity to UV rays that can make sun exposure more dangerous.
Even as you observe these precautions, always watch for warning signs of overheating or sunstroke:
- High body temperature
- Confusion or agitation
- Excessive tiredness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid breathing
- Racing pulse
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your nursing staff immediately.
With all that in mind, enjoy your safe and healthy summer in the sun!