Ah, summertime. This is the season most of us look forward to all year. But the summer months are also ones that put our seniors at higher risk for a heat-related medical emergency. From sun poisoning to hypothermia (also known as heat stroke), it is important for caregivers to know how to identify when the UV index might be too dangerous for an older loved one to venture outdoors.
What is the UV Index?
While many of us have heard the term “UV Index,” few of us really know what it is or how to interpret the numbers. Here’s what older adults and their caregivers should know to stay safe in the summer sun.
UV Index is short for ultraviolet index. It is an internationally-used standard measurement of sunburn-producing ultraviolet (UV) rays in a particular location.
The EPA has broken down the heat index numbers into 5 broad categories:
- Low: A heat index reading of 0 – 2 means an average person is at low risk for a heat-related problem. While seniors are considered to be at higher risk than other people, this is still considered to be a range that is generally safe. You still need to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Being near snow, water or sand can push your risk higher even when the UV index is low.
- Moderate: When the index reaches 3 – 5, you are considered to be a moderate risk. Avoid the midday sun if possible. If you and your senior loved one will be outside or riding in a car, you should both wear sunscreen, a hat and lightweight, loose-fitting clothing to protect your skin.
- High: A reading of 6 – 7 means you are at high risk for skin or eye damage if you venture out into the sun unprotected. Caregivers and seniors should avoid going outdoors. If you must head out, sunscreen, loose-fitting clothing, a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses are all necessities.
- Very High: If the heat index climbs between 8 and 10, our senior loved ones are at very high risk for a medical emergency. Stay indoors. Confine errands and outings to early morning and late evening. Sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and summer clothing that protects a senior’s arms and legs are vital.
- Extreme: Just as the label implies, a UV rating of 11 or higher means the day comes with an extreme heat warning. Unprotected skin and eyes can suffer severe damage in a manner of minutes. You and the senior you love should remain indoors to stay safe.
Apps to Help Caregivers Track the UV Index Each Day
Where can you find and track what the UV Index in your local community will be each day?
Technology has made it much easier for caregivers.
Here are a few smart phone apps you can explore:
- SunWise: This is the EPA’s very own free UV Index app. It will allow you to monitor the UV index on an hourly basis for your specific location.
- Ultraviolet from Robocat: Another free UV Index app, this one allows you to check the current index score for any location around the world.
- Weather Channel: Along with hourly and daily weather forecasts, this free app also provides you with the UV Index report.
Learn More about Seniors and Sun Safety
Because we understand just how serious the summer health risks for seniors can be, Griswold Home Care created Skin Safety Resource Center. Older adults and caregivers can visit to learn more about topics ranging from Melanoma to moisturizer.