As the dog days of summer are upon us and heat continues, it’s important to take steps to avoid heat stroke, protect yourself from melanoma, and stay safe in the sun. Older adults are more likely to have medical conditions that change normal body responses to heat; this includes affecting the body’s ability to sweat and regulate body temperature.

Anthony Byers, director of The Becoming Center offers some great tips on how older adults can stay safe and avoid heat stroke:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, contact Your Way Home Montgomery County which is operated by the Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services Center.
  • Do not rely on fans as your main cooling source when it’s really hot outside. During the summer, ceiling fans should rotate in a counterclockwise direction as that creates a cool downward airflow.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink
    • If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather.
  • Don’t use your stove or oven to cook if you don’t have to – it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States with nearly 5 million people treated for skin cancer each year. Melanoma, a form of skin cancer, causes an estimated 10,000 deaths in the U.S annually.

Almost one-third of all U.S. adults get sunburned each year and on average, the risk for developing melanoma doubles if one has had more than five sunburns in their lifetime. In the last decade, there has been a 53% increase in new melanoma cases with a predicted 175,000 cases in 2018 alone. For those over 65, there is a between a 40 and 50 percent chance they have at least one skin cancer lesion during their lifetime.

While these statistics can be alarming, the good news is that melanoma and other related benign skin lesions can be prevented even later in life. Recommendations for older adults to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer include:

  • Seek shade before you need relief from the sun. Take breaks when working outdoors to rest under a tree or umbrella.
  • Limit outdoor activity between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the peak times for sunlight. Remember that sunburn can happen even on cloudy and overcast days.
  • Wear clothing from a tightly woven fabric and wear darker colors. Some clothing brands are certified under international standards to provide ultraviolet protection.
  • Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection.
  • When applying sunscreen, use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 before you go outside. Add thick layer to all exposed areas of skin and don’t forget hard to reach places such as your back.
  • Reapply sunscreen after 2 hours or after perspiring heavily, swimming or toweling off.
  • Be extra careful around surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays, such as sand, water and concrete. UVA and UVB light can reflect off these surfaces and cause sunburn and skin damage.

By following these suggestions, you can safely enjoy the great outdoors while protecting yourself from heat stroke, sunburn, and an increased risk of developing melanoma.

For more information about joining the Becoming Center, please visit our site at BecomingCenter.org.

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