What You Need To Know About Older Adults And The Sun Back »

As a person ages they become more sensitive to sunlight and will experience sunburn in a shorter period of time.

Have you noticed that you are more sensitive to the sun? Are you getting a sunburn in less time than it took in the past? While people of all ages should take steps to protect themselves from the sun, older people may need to take additional precautions.

Medications & Sun Exposure

As a person ages they become more sensitive to sunlight, meaning a person will experience sunburn in a shorter period of time than at previous times in their life. In addition, older adults are more likely to be taking medications that may increase their sensitivity to sun exposure including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamine
  •  Benzoyl peroxide
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories: ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.
  • Diuretics
  • Antihypertensives (blood pressure drugs)
  • Benzocaine
  • Cholesterol drugs
  • Neuroleptic drugs
  • Antifungals

This is not an exhaustive list of medications that can increase sensitivity to sunlight. If there is ever any doubt, consult your pharmacist and always wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

The type of sunscreen you buy matters. You want to ensure it provides broad spectrum protection, meaning it blocks ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation. Ensure the sunscreen contains ingredients such avobenzone, oxybenzone, mexoryl, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide. Sun protection factor (SPF) is also important to consider when purchasing sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend a minimum SPF of 15 and suggest it should be used year round. For people suspected of being sensitive to sunlight, use a minimum SPF of 30. Sunscreen should be applied generously and often: approximately two tablespoons for the whole body. Keep older friends and loved ones in the shade as much as possible while enjoying outdoor activities.

Symptoms to Watch For

If you notice any of the following symptoms, please consult your medical provider. You or a loved one may be experiencing a sun sensitivity reaction:

  • Eczema-type rash
  • Aggravation of existing skin conditions
  • Worsening or even precipitating autoimmune disorders such as lupus
  • Exaggerated sunburn

It is important to note that these symptoms will not always appear immediately after sun exposure. It may take a few days. In addition, these symptoms may appear on skin not even exposed to sunlight. A trained medical provider will be able to provide more information.


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