The Safety Net

Preventing Sun Damage and Dehydration

As summer approaches and service providers and consumers go outside to enjoy the warm weather, they will want to prepare for the increased risks of sun damage and dehydration. Educating staff and consumers and committing to some safe practices can reduce the dangers posed by these two conditions.

Sun Damage
Sun damage may be anything from freckling and sunburn to skin cancer and cataracts. Some consumers may be at increased risk for sunburn, and all staff should know basic warm weather precautions to avoid the pain, discomfort, and long term effects of sun exposure. Here are some tips for enjoying the outdoors.

  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Apply it in a thick layer about 15 minutes before going out to give the chemicals a chance to work. Remember to apply to places like the tops of feet if open shoes are worn. Use lip balm and cosmetics with SPF. Apply sunscreen even on cloudy days or when going to places at higher altitude (mountains) where the risk of skin damage still is present even though the air may be cooler. Even if you’re planning to stay in the shade, use sunscreen if you’re going to be exposed to reflected sunlight from sand or water. Waterproof sunscreen needs to be applied every thirty minutes when in the water or when perspiring a lot.
  • Be sure to wear hats and lightweight long sleeved shirts and pants. Broad-brimmed hats and hats with a flap in the back provide extra protection for the neck.
  • Plan outside activities for early morning or evening. Stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Wear sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection.
  • Provide shade structures in the yard, and take portable shade devices such as umbrellas with you on trips to the beach, water, or parks.
  • Get consumers involved in a Sun Safety Program. Ideas might include a shopping trip for safety products after watching a video or reading about sun safety. The internet has many articles and posters that may be downloaded and used in an awareness program.
  • Learn what medications (prescribed and over-the-counter) may increase the risk of serious sunburn and provide extra precautions for people who take these medications.

Dehydration is the loss of water from the body. Very young individuals, people who are elderly, or people who are in poor health are at greater risk of dehydration. Although the leading cause of dehydration is being ill with a fever, sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea, sun exposure and hot weather are factors that can cause similar effects. As a service provider you should know how to recognize dehydration and how to prevent it. If you suspect dehydration, consult a physician immediately.

A person is dehydrated or becoming dehydrated may:

  • be dizzy or weak
  • have a dry mouth
  • not urinate very often or have dark, strong smelling urine
  • be disoriented or confused
  • have poor skin elasticity (the skin may remain tented when gently pinched)

To prevent dehydration:

  • Provide non-caffeinated fluids that are the type and temperature preferred by the individual. Water, juices, and sports drinks are good choices and should be offered every 30-60 minutes during times of hot weather or sun exposure. Consumers who have difficulty communicating need special attention. Remember, if you are thirsty, the consumer with you most likely is too.
  • If a consumer is on a fluid restriction, talk to the physician for advice on how much and how often extra fluid can be offered.
  • Offer a consumer a full glass of liquid with any medication.
  • Provide shade outside and plan for time in the shade. This can reduce the amount of fluid lost through perspiration.
  • Involve the consumer in planning for adequate hydration. Have the consumer help choose and prepare the drinks that will be taken on the outing. Drinks like Kool-Aid, punch, and blenderized fruit drinks can be fun to prepare. Popsicles are a good alternative for backyard activities.
  • Rather than asking the question, “Would you like something to drink?”, say “Here is a cool, refreshing glass of water, Ms. Smith.”
  • Learn what medications the consumer takes that increase the risk of dehydration and provide that consumer more opportunities for drinking liquids.
  • Consumers who use adaptive devices such as straws or special cups should take those devices on outings. Also, attention should be given to the consumer who needs thickened liquids; if the liquids aren’t prepared prior to the outing, the thickening agent should be taken along.
  • The consumer who drools is at greater risk of water loss and dehydration and should be offered fluids more frequently.

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