Seven Tips to Keep Your Child Safe in the Summer Heat
I have a love/hate relationship with our Florida summers. Is it paradise or punishment? I think that depends …
When lounging on the beach watching the sun’s rays dance over the blue water, I listen to the peaceful rhythm of waves crashing to shore and think, “This is paradise.”
When I’m rushing to get to work and before I can make it from my front door to the car, I notice I’m soaked in sweat – well, that’s a different story.
Summer heat can feel like an idyllic escape or a suffocating sauna, and that same contrast exists for our kids, too. We know that physical activity is vital for them, and we want them to play in the fresh air and sunshine. But, as we encourage them to run wild and free outdoors, we must also be mindful of ways to keep them safe despite the scorching temperatures.
First things first, can kids take the heat?
Kids aren’t just miniature versions of adults; their growing bodies work differently than ours. Children have a greater body surface area relative to their weight, which means they actually absorb more heat from their environment than adults do.
One of the ways the body works to keep cool is through sweating. The evaporation of sweat from the skin produces a cooling effect that lowers body temperature. But, kids’ bodies aren’t very efficient at sweating, and they have fewer sweat glands. This makes it more difficult for them to cool off.
to the potty
than a trip
to the hospital,
Keep in mind, though, that heat isn’t the only problem; humidity plays a significant role as well. When the air is saturated with moisture, sweat doesn’t evaporate easily. The natural cooling methods that the body uses to get rid of heat aren’t effective, making it difficult for a child’s body to recover. So how should you combat the heat while still having fun outside? Here are a few things to keep in mind this summer as you pry your children from their Xboxes and Playstations and send them outside:
Encourage kids to drink more water
One of the key factors to consider is that children often do not feel the need to drink enough fluids when they’re exercising outdoors. Their bodies lose water through sweat, and if these fluids are not replaced they may become dehydrated. A dehydrated child cannot cool their body temperature effectively, and is at greater risk of developing heat-related illness.
Think about it this way: better a few extra trips to the potty than a trip to the hospital, right?
While it might be easier to tempt them with sports drinks than plain water, try to encourage basic H2O as much as possible. With few exceptions, most kids don’t need the “extras” in sports drinks.
Pay attention to prevention
Whether you’re sending your kids outside for a friendly game of hide-and-seek with the neighborhood kids or they participate in organized athletic activities, consider these tips to keep them healthy as they exercise outdoors:
- Schedule outdoor exercise and athletic activities before noon or after 6 p.m. to avoid the hottest part of the day.
- Make sure your child is well hydrated prior to exercise.
- Make water breaks mandatory. During prolonged physical activity, children need around 5 oz. of water every 15-20 minutes, even if they don’t feel thirsty. For teenagers, encourage 9 oz. of water every 15-20 minutes.
- Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight to allow sweat to evaporate easily.
- For a child beginning a strenuous exercise regimen or if you are traveling to a warmer climate, ease into it. Begin with exercise or activity that is limited in duration and intensity and build gradually over 10-14 days.
- Sunburned skin doesn’t sweat effectively (and it hurts!). Make sure you utilize sunscreen appropriately to avoid burns.
- Children with ongoing medical issues, obese children and those who have suffered a prior heat illness may be at higher risk of developing heat-related problems. Extra caution is warranted, so talk with your pediatrician about your child’s individual needs.
how to get your
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As summer settles in and the mercury continues to rise, don’t be afraid to send your kids outside for some good, old-fashioned fun in the sun. Encourage them to enjoy all of the wonderful things a Florida summer has to offer; beach barbecues, pool parties and the occasional ice cream cone are just a few of my favorites.
And when the heat just seems unbearable? Well, you plan your move to Alaska. That’s what I do.
Courtney Schmidt is a pharmacist and writer at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. She received her doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of Florida in 2006. Courtney is passionate about equipping parents with the best possible health information to help them raise healthy, thriving children. She is also Mommy to a 2-year-old little girl, Avery. For more of her insight into raising healthy kids, visit myilluminateblog.com.