Fun in the Sun

Summer will be here before we know it. Sunshine is good for the average healthy adult and provides our brains with Vitamin D that aides in our moods, however, in our frail elderly we need to remember a few cautionary items.

Hot summer days bring dehydration to our frail elderly. They are not always drinking the amount of fluids needed in a day due to personal reasons or cognitively they cannot remember to drink and the “thirst” mechanism is not there anymore. Seniors may not realize that they are dehydrated until they begin experiencing symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, and racing heartbeat, which can be caused by the heart pumping against a smaller volume of blood. Remember to drink plenty of water or offer a glass of water each hour to combat dehydration.

Families often look forward to getting outside and enjoying the warm weather. Sunburn is a concern in our elderly, their skin is fragile and needs to be covered when outside. If you and your loved one will be outside for any length of time try to plan outings for the cooler parts of the day to avoid issues and wear proper sun protection, 50 – 75 SPF sunscreens.

Be aware of medication side effects, several common prescription medications can complicate having fun in the sun. A few well-known examples are antibiotics (Quinolones, Tetracyclines, and Sulfonamides), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), thiazide diuretics, and some anti-diabetic agents (sulfonylureas). Dangerous drug interactions and health complications can occur with sun exposure. Symptoms include sunburn-like skin inflammation often causing blisters to form quickly, rash, and eczema. Read all inserts and prescribing information carefully.

Heat intolerance is common since seniors have a reduced ability to regulate body temperature. Medications again can further weaken or inhibit the body’s normal response to heat and humidity. Drugs like beta blockers reduce blood flow to the skin, thereby preventing the release of excess heat. Tricyclic antidepressants and many over-the-counter medications containing Diphenhydramine (Benadryl and Dramamine) cause individuals to sweat less. Overheating can quickly progress into heat stroke if left untreated. Be mindful of symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, changes in heart rate, decreased sweating, confusion and fainting.

James Dent quotes “A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.”

Be safe and enjoy the summer,

Lisa Gerleman RN, BSNInterim DON, MDS coordinator