Of course we all want to spend more time outdoors in the summer, for both overall health and well-being. Soaking up some sun and fresh air can help us feel good, and is a relaxing way to cope with caregiver stress or treatment for serious illness. Just remember that heat and dehydration, especially for children and seniors, can be potentially dangerous. Here's what caregivers need to know to enjoy the sun safely this summer.
- Stay in air conditioned spaces during heat waves.
- Use fans.
- Close curtains or blinds during peak sunlight or heat during the day, to keep rooms cool (and help your energy bill!)
- Don't rely on sunscreen alone.. wear a wide-brimmed, breathable sunhat.
- If the person in your care has increased skin sensitivity, it's good to wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting clothing (ideally, made of natural fabric) for added protection.
- A cotton scarf provides skin protection and is cooler than a wig while going through chemotherapy.
Sunscreens - they're not all the same!
- Apply a good sunscreen, and reapply every two hours during prolonged time outdoors.
- Read labels carefully and choose a "broad-spectrum" sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Buy a new bottle for this year. Last year's product may no longer be effective.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist which sunscreen he/she recommends.
Limit sun exposure
- Reduce time spent outdoors mid-day (between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m). Sit outside or go for a walk in the early morning or evening hours instead.
- For cancer patients, many chemotherapy drugs can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight (photosensitivity). It's best to avoid prolonged or direct sun exposure, and wear a good sunscreen. It's also important to note that photosensitivity can also continue for a few months after treatment is finished.
- Some antibiotics, diuretics and cardiac medications can also have effects of photosensitivity. Check with your pharmacist or doctor if the person in your care is taking any medications.
- Take frequent drink breaks throughout the day.
- Drink six to eight glasses of water (unless a health professional has recommended a modified fluid diet.)
- Add lemon or cucumber slices to the water for extra flavour.
- Fruits such as watermelon have a high water content and can help maintain hydration.
Be sure to check in often during hot summer days. The person in your care may not always recognize signs of dehydration or heat-related illness.
With these tips in mind, you can get out and enjoy the summer as much as possible!
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