Child Safety Series: Beat the Heat

Each month, this series will provide important facts and tips surrounding child safety in an effort to support parents and caregivers as they navigate reducing risks and creating the safest environment possible for the children in their lives. 

Summer is for making memories with our kids outside with friends and family, but the extreme heat the season brings can also be cause for concern if not handled appropriately. 

While your calendar is filled with outdoor playdates, pool days and other summer fun with your kids, it’s crucial for parents and caregivers to understand the steps necessary to keep their little ones safe and prevent heat-related illnesses. This month, we’re sharing a roundup of proven guidelines from some of the top pediatric safety resources to help you take proactive measures to ensure a happy and healthy summer for you and your child.

Always Dress Appropriately for Activities

This may seem like common sense, but with the heat index changing rapidly throughout the day, think ahead about your child’s outfit. Dress your child in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics such as cotton, and anything with wicking abilities or UV protection is a great addition! Avoid dark-colored clothing as it absorbs more heat and fabrics that may be too heavy. Consider UV sunglasses and using a wide-brimmed hat to shield their face and neck from direct sunlight as well as swimsuits that add a bit more coverage like a rash guard, two-piece set. If they will be out for the day, think about light layers that allow them to add or remove items as the temperature shifts. 

Stay Hydrated and Create Water Reminders 

Hydration is key all year long for good health but especially important during hot summer months. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, particularly water, throughout the day. Offer drink breaks at regular intervals and ensure they have access to water whenever needed. You can set a timer or an alarm to help make sure everyone is staying hydrated. Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks as they can contribute to dehydration. Healthychildren.org reminds parents that infants who are exclusively breastfed should be nursed frequently to maintain proper hydration levels during hot months.

Use UV Protection and Reapply When Necessary

Protect your child’s delicate skin from harmful UV rays when they are outside, regardless if it’s a full sun or overcast day. Even cloudy days can still result in sunburns and long term skin damage. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 to all exposed areas of their skin before heading outdoors, paying close attention to your child’s ears and face. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if your child has been swimming or sweating regardless of whether or not your sunblock markets itself as “sweat/waterproof.” 

Seek Shade and Limit Outdoor Activities 

Knowing how most kids may have a difficult time parting with outdoor summer fun, attempt to set expectations ahead of time. During the peak heat hours, typically from late morning to early afternoon, it is advisable to seek shade and avoid excessive sun exposure. Plan outdoor activities for early mornings or late afternoons when temperatures are cooler. If you must be outside during the hottest times, choose shaded areas or use an umbrella or canopy for extra protection from sun and heat.

Create a Cool Environment to Escape the Heat

Having an indoor space that is cool and comfortable nearby to escape from the heat can be very helpful to cool kids down. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, open windows and use fans to improve airflow. You can keep curtains or blinds closed during the hottest part of the day to minimize heat from entering your indoor space. Make sure kids have thinner pajamas and summer-appropriate bedding for safe sleep practices for all ages. 

Recognize the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses for your children as well as yourself. Signs can include excessive thirst, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, flushed skin and decreased urine output. If your child shows signs of heat-related illness, it is crucial to take immediate steps to cool them down. Move them to a shaded or air-conditioned area, remove excess clothing and use a cool, damp cloth or sponge to gently apply cold water to their forehead, neck and underarms. Encourage them to drink small sips of water or another hydrating drink.

If your child’s symptoms worsen, persist, or if you have concerns about his or her health, consult a healthcare professional promptly. They will be able to assess the situation and provide appropriate medical advice or treatment. When in doubt regarding the severity of your child’s injury or illness, call 911 for assistance. 

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