Resident skin care and the prevention of pressure ulcers are two of the most common year-round challenges for senior living operators, but with the sun, heat and humidity, summer poses the greatest threat for skin problems.

Prevention and early intervention are the best way to head off potential wounds, rashes, infections, inflammation and other skin disorders and this approach requires only a dose of common sense, along with TLC.

The American Academy of Dermatology has issued a list of guidelines designed to keep residents’ skin healthy, thus maintaining their quality of life.

One of the biggest culprits in dermal disorders is dry, irritated skin. Heat and humidity are prime causes of skin irritation, which can lead to shear and, ultimately, pressure ulcers and wounds. SPF 30+ sunscreen offers protection from the sun’s radioactive rays. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

Cleansers are effective in keeping skin moist, but antibacterial and deodorant soaps and body washes actually can dry the skin. Warm baths and showers are preferable to hot ones, followed by application of fragrance-free moisturizer.

“Because moisturizer works by trapping water in the skin, it needs to be applied within five minutes of taking a shower or bath,” the AAD recommends.

Sunburn and melasma are two conditions caused by direct sun exposure. Because many senior living communities are located in sunbelt locations and have ample outdoor areas, the risk for sunburn and melasma (gray-brown skin patches) is high — especially in seniors.

The AAD recommends avoiding direct sun and that residents should sit in shaded areas. A wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves and pants should be worn, when possible.

To protect all exposed skin, a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied.

Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. Most adults need about 1 ounce to fully cover the body. Important areas to cover include tops of feet, neck, ears and top of the head. When outdoors, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours.

Prickly heat, or heat rash, can be a painful condition caused by blocked sweat glands. Because the sweat cannot get out, it builds up under the skin, causing a rash and tiny, itchy bumps. When the bumps burst and release sweat, people typically feel a prickly sensation on the skin.

Tips that dermatologists offer to their patients to help them sweat less and thereby lessen their risk of getting prickly heat:

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes made of cotton.
  • Exercise outdoors during the coolest parts of the day or move the workout indoors where there is air-conditioning.
  • Try to keep skin cool by using fans, cool showers and air conditioning, when possible.

“Anything that can be done to stop sweating profusely will help reduce the risk of heat rash,” the AAD advises.

Infections, allergies

Sun and heat can cause various infections, some of which can be serious, especially for older adults. One common summer infection is folliculitis, a bacterial invasion of the hair follicle. When hair follicles get infected, they look like pimples, but are itchy and tender.

The best way to avoid this condition is to change out of sweaty clothes, wear loose-fitting garments and shower. Tubs and whirlpools should be avoided if acid and chlorine levels aren’t known.

“So many people get folliculitis from a hot tub that there is actually a condition called ‘hot tub folliculitis,’” the AAD reports.

It also is possible to acquire a skin infection from a manicure or pedicure. Although these treatments are good for the nails, they also can expose the skin to infections. With proper precautions, these infections can be avoided if the salon staff is properly trained.

Excessive sun exposure also can cause allergies in which hives can develop if a resident takes certain medications or has sun sensitivity. Hives are a painful and itchy skin irritation caused by an allergic reaction to the sun. In serious cases, blisters appear.

To prevent an allergic skin reaction, residents should check their medication containers or consult with their pharmacists to see whether they react to sun exposure.

The best way to avoid this condition is to change out of sweaty clothes, wear loose-fitting garments and shower. Tubs and whirlpools should be avoided if acid and chlorine levels aren’t known.

It also is possible to acquire a skin infection from a manicure or pedicure. Although these treatments are good for the nails, they also can expose the skin to infections. With proper precautions, these infections can be avoided if the salon staff is properly trained.