Since summer has arrived, it is time to bask in the warm rays of the sun. However, we must remember to protect our skin and eyes from the sun’s damaging effects.
The sun emits radiation in 2 different forms known as UV-A and UV-B rays (UV stands for Ultraviolet). Exposure to these rays without protection can cause vision problems, damage to the eye, suppress your immune system, cause premature aging of the skin (age spots, leathery skin, wrinkles) and skin cancer.
Our skin is the human body’s largest organ. It can, and will, protect us from heat, sunlight, injury and infection. We have several everyday steps we can take to protect us from the UV rays of the sun:
- Wear proper clothing: Wearing protective light colored clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants are good examples. Protecting your head with a wide brimmed hat is also a good idea and wearing UV-resistant sunglasses. Remember, on cloudy winter days you can also fall victim to the sun’s powerful rays so take heed.
- Avoid the burn of the sun: Repetitive sunburn can greatly increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Find the shade: Peak hours, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the WHO (World Health Organization) are between 10 am and 4pm. You can find the shade to stay under or create your own with protective clothing, wide brimmed hats and umbrellas.
- Use caution when around reflective surfaces such as snow, sand and water: These reflective surfaces as well as the reflection of the rays through a window can increase your risk for sunburn.
- Be cautious when traveling to higher altitudes: You increase your exposure to these UV-rays because there is less atmosphere to absorb these rays and therefore they are stronger.
- Medications: Remember that certain medications may increase your skin sensitivity to the sun. You should receive handouts from your pharmacy regarding side effects your medications may have. Or stop in our Wellness Offices and they can help you obtain more information regarding your medications.
- Hydration: Remember to take or have available to you plain water to hydrate as the sun’s rays can cause you to either dehydrate or over heat. Sweetened beverages and alcoholic beverages can increase the sun’s effects. Take advantage of Hearth’s Hydration stations located throughout our communities.
- Apply broad spectrum sunscreen: A broad spectrum sunscreen will protect from both UV-A and UV-B rays from the sun. Apply at least 1 ounce (a palm full) of sunscreen to exposed skin areas. The FDA recommends using a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher for protection against sun induced skin conditions.
- The proper use of sunscreen: Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to going out into the sun to all exposed body parts. Even though there are “water-proof” and “water resistant” sun screens that come in creams, lotions and sprays it is important to re-apply at least every 2 hours even on cloudy days but especially after sweating or swimming. Remember a whole day in the sun may require a whole tube of sun screen.
- Protect your eyes: Cataracts, Macular degeneration, and Pterygium (non-cancerous growths of the conjunctiva that obstruct vision) can be caused by the UV rays of the sun, according to the CDC. Therefore, a wide brimmed hat can not only shade the skin of your face but your eyes as well. The best sunglasses to wear for protection not only block glare but should block 99 to 100% of UV rays and wrap around styles will protect the eyes from all angles.
Resources: When planning to be outdoors, you can decide your protection needs by checking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) UV index. The index measures the daily intensity of the UV rays on a scale of 1 to 11. A low number requires minimal protection whereas a high number would suggest maximum protection.
Contact your Healthcare provider or our Wellness Office if you are experiencing any problems after being in the sun.
So enjoy the outdoors this summer but remember to follow these steps to protect your skin and your eyes!
Have questions about the information in this article? Click here to find and contact a local Hearth community near you to learn more!
Written by: Janet L. Haynes, Vice President of Clinical Services for Hearth Management
Janet has been in the Health Care field since the mid 1980’s to include positions in the areas of Resident Activities, Care Aide, Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse and Executive Director in the fields of Home Care, Skilled Nursing and Assisted Living. Janet has been with Hearth Management since 1996 holding various positions from Director of Nursing, Administrative Assistant and Executive Director of Castle Gardens. Currently, as the Director of Clinical Services she oversees and coordinates Resident Care and Services, State Regulatory Compliance, Employee/Resident Retention, In-services and Training for Hearth Communities. Janet has extensive experience in Memory Care to include the development of Hearth’s “Care Connect” Program. She is a former board member for the Alzheimer’s Association of Central New York. Janet is an ALFA Champion Award Recipient, participated in ALFA’s Clinical Round Table and recognized for her accomplishment with the Southern Tier 20 under 40 Award. Janet’s primary role as Director of Clinical Services is overseeing our Medical Departments for regulatory compliance and quality assurance activities to provide a high standard of care to our residents.
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