After all, whether we grew up here or moved here later, part of the appeal of the San Gabriel Valley and Southern California is the constant sunshine. So hearing a recommendation of “no more sun” from a health care provider, a family member or a caregiver will never go over well.
The staff at Accredited Home Care doesn’t want to turn this suggestion into an “all or nothing” command and force clients to stay inside all the time and be unhappy about it or feel guilty and scared about sneaking outside to soak up some sunshine.
That’s why there are some sensible strategies that allow people to go outside and enjoy being there, but still take protections to minimize potential health risks.
This is the perfect time of year to take these precautions—summer has officially started, which means temperatures will start being higher and there will be more reasons to want to go outside. You can go to exercise, for gardening, even simply sitting on the porch.
It’s also excellent timing – July 3 is “Stay Out of the Sun Day,” which is when people are encouraged to perhaps forgo being too long under direct sunlight but at least find some nice shade.
Pros of sunlight
If one were to make a pro-con list of the value of sunlight, the pros would always been on top.
Sunlight helps mental health. Science isn’t quite sure why, but sunlight stimulates a variety of hormones in your brain including serotonin. This one in particular can help regulate your emotional and mental health. Studies of depression have found that this hormone is in short supply in people who suffer from regular depression, and people who feel more pleasant have higher levels. So sunlight can help rejuvenate one’s serotonin.
It makes it easier to perform other tasks. Going for a walk around the block on a sunny day can be more enjoyable than exercising in the basement or the living room. Both activities are physical but the sunlight one can be especially appealing.
It can provide Vitamin D. The chemical reaction to sunlight can also stimulate the production of Vitamin D in the body, which can help with bone health and growth, including combating osteoporosis.
Cons of sunlight
Of course, health care providers will tell you that these benefits also should be balanced by an equal amount of caution about being outside for too long.
Prolonged sunlight can increase the risk of sunburns and other skin damage, and various types of skin cancers.
And though not directly impacted by sunlight, being outside too long in the heat can also cause health problems.
As we age, it’s more difficult for our body to regulate its temperature, including sweating. In some cases, certain medications also might affect how our body responds to heat. And, because one of the signs of heat stress is confusion, someone may not know they’re out too long or feel like they’re fine.
Smart sun strategies
Arcadia residents who do want to be outside as much as possible this summer or their caregivers can keep these five strategies in mind:
- Be prepared. Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and even a thin long-sleeved shirt or light pants.
- Stay hydrated. The common suggestion for a normal day is to drink eight glasses of liquid with water in it, which can include coffee or tea. So more should be consumed on a hot day especially if you’re outside long or on certain medications. Your provider can offer recommendations, but the general rule of thumb is to drink plenty before you’re thirsty.
- Don’t go solo. Being outside with a friend, a family member or a caregiver can provide companionship as well as an extra set of eyes to make sure you’re safe. They can check on you, ensure you’ve taken adequate precautions, remind you to stay hydrated, and to head inside after a certain amount of time.
- Avoid being outside for the hottest parts of the day. Not only are temperatures cooler in the early morning or late afternoon, but the sun isn’t as intense. Consider staying inside during the late morning and early afternoon, whether it’s your home, a senior center, a library or some other public spot. If you’re concerned about energy costs, consider using your air conditioner only during this time rather than all day.
- Pay attention to air quality advisories. Poor air can make it difficult to breathe or be outside and be healthy very long, regardless of sunlight. People with lung or respiratory problems may want to stay inside during these periods.
Home health can help
Because Accredited Home Care has been working with clients in California for 35 years, we’re familiar with how hot it can get at the same time how enjoyable it can be to want to indulge in sunlight.
Our caregivers can provide advice on the optimal times to go outside and recommend different types of protection.