The Safety Net
Risks of Sun Damage and Dehydration
With summer fast approaching, many activities will be planned for consumers. Perhaps you know consumers who work outside or especially enjoy being in the warm, beautiful sunshine. However, the sun produces ultraviolet radiation (UV) and can cause harm to the skin and eyes. Some examples of sun damage are: freckling, tanning, sun burning, wrinkling, cataracts, and skin cancer. As the most severe form of sun damage, skin cancer may be preventable.
Know if consumers are at increased risk for sun damage by considering the following factors.
- Family History - People who have family members with skin cancer are at greater risk for developing it.
- Physical Characteristics - Persons with certain physical characteristics such as fair skin, blond or red hair, and blue or green eyes have an increased risk of skin and eye damage.
- Environment - The many climates of California present certain risks to California residents. Every 1000 feet above sea level increases UV radiation by about 5%. Bodies of water, such as the ocean or lakes, reflect the sun’s radiation and increase the risk for sun damage when people are exposed for long periods of time.
- Medications - Many medications increase the likelihood of severe sunburn which can lead to permanent skin or eye damage. For example, antibiotics such as tetracycline and sulfa drugs, diuretics, and the class of medications called phenothiazines like Thorazine and Mellaril, may increase the possibility of sun damage. Ask your physician or pharmacist about this and ensure that all your consumers know about the increased risk for sun damage.
Recognizing an increased risk for sun damage is the first step to developing preventative strategies to minimize its likehood. Limiting sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm is ideal. When outside, sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 should be used and reapplied when it is washed or perspired off. Sunscreen should be used even on cloudy days and in higher altitudes where the temperature might be cooler. It should also be used when a person is planning to stay in the shade but is exposed to reflected UV rays from the water or sand. Clothing to protect from sun damage (hats with wide brims or neck flaps, long sleeve shirts, and long pants) should be worn. Wearing sun glasses that provide UV protection can prevent eye damage. Protecting babies and small children from sun damage should not be overlooked. Encourage everyone to plan some time in the shade during their outdoor activities.
In hot weather, consumers are at increased risk for dehydration. Dehydration is loss of body water and can occur when a person:
- is ill with fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or decreased appetite.
- has prolonged exposure to the sun, especially without adequate protections.
- is a baby or very young child.
- is elderly.
- is taking medications that increase the chance of water loss (diuretics, lithium).
- is incontinent and limits fluids to try to decrease the chance of a wetting accident.
- has problems with drooling and loses fluids through saliva loss.
Recognization of Dehydration
A person who is dehydrated may appear to be sleepy, urinate less, have a dry mouth, and be dizzy. The person’s urine may appear to be very concentrated (dark in color) and have a strong odor. When a person is dehydrated, skin elasticity is poor and does not return to normal but remains “tented”when gently pinched.
Prevention of Dehydration
- Drink plenty of fluids that do not contain caffeine or alcohol. Water, juices, and sports drinks are good choices. If you are caring for someone who is not able to say when they are thirsty, offer fluids frequently (every 30 minutes). If you are thirsty, the persons under your care are likely thirsty also. If the person is on a fluid restriction, consult the healthcare provider for advice.
- When offering fluids, take into account individuals’preferences regarding temperature and types of liquids desired.
- Plan time in the shade to decrease the chance of water loss through perspiration.
- Know what medications can increase the risk for dehydration.
- Notify a physician immediately when you suspect that someone may be showing signs of dehydration.