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How to Protect Your Kids From the Summer Heat

Jul 15, 2012 at 10:51 AM Chime in now

It's easy to forget that hot summer days can also be quite dangerous (especially when living in a country where it feels like we have to deal with cold temperatures 11 months of the year). Most of us are aware of the dangers of freezing temperatures; we carefully bundle our little ones up before we let them out (if we let them outside at all), but we have to be equally as vigilant when the layers of clothing come off.
Summer safety is more than about just making sure the kids have enough sunscreen on (though this is very important as well). It's equally essential to help children, especially babies and toddlers, safe from overheating.
Because they have fewer sweat glands, kids sweat less, and because of their small size, they tend to absorb relatively more heat; combine the two and it means little ones have a harder time cooling themselves. Follow these heat safety tips for a fun and safe summer:

  • Stay inside.  Yes, I know this is contrary to going outside for some fresh air and exercise, but sometimes it is so hot that it is better to stay indoors; hopefully some place where there is air-conditioning (perhaps go to a nice cool shopping mall, or the local library), or at least find a place with a good fan by a window (but remember fans just move air around, they do not actually cool the air). If you do go out, try to avoid direct sunlight and crowded places, take lots of breaks in the shade, and avoid going out during the hottest hours in the middle of the day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. If your child refuses to drink water, try juice or a sport drink, it is better than not drinking anything. Avoid drinking things with caffeine like pop. Breastfeeding babies will need extra liquid as well (so moms should be drinking more too!). Drink breaks are important even if the kids are having fun in water. Being in water helps keep the body cool, but it will not replenish lost fluids. 
  • Avoid strenuous physical activities, even if it is just a really good game of tag. If you can't avoid high energy activities on hot days, just remember to take lots of breaks in the shade, and drink lots of water, even if the child does not 'feel' thirsty. At the first sign of distress, like feeling faint, nausea, have a rapid heart rate, feeling shortness of breath, or just feeling uncomfortable and unwell, it is best to just stop the activity and cool down immediately.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colour, loose fitting clothes and don't forget the hat, and sunglasses and of course sunscreen (for those over six months).
  • And most importantly, NEVER leave a kid in an unattended car on a hot day. Actually never leave anything alive in an unattended car on a hot day. Even if the windows are open, and it is for a 'short' period of time, it is just not a good idea. One study found when temperatures outside was above 35°C, it could get as hot as 65°C inside a car in just 15min. Even on cooler days, the temperatures inside the car can skyrocket: A study found even if ambient temperature was only 22°C (a nice cool summer day), a car could still reach over 47°C inside after sitting in the sun for an hour. Cars heat up  fast (they reach about 80% of their final temperature in 30 min), and even leaving a crack in the windows does little to slow down the heating.

Watch for these symptoms of various heat-related illnesses (from the Hospital for Sick Children):

Symptoms of Dehydration Symptoms of heat exhaustion (Not heat stroke, though if left untreated, may result in heat stroke)
- dry or sticky mouth
- thirst
- low or no urine output
- concentrated urine (urine appears dark yellow)
- low or no tear production
- headache
- dizziness
- cramps
- normal or elevated body temperature (less than 40C)
- profuse sweating
- pale skin
- skin may be cool and moist
- fast, shallow breathing
- fast, weak pulse
- headache
- nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- dizziness, weakness, or fainting
- heat cramps
- exhaustion
Severe dehydration (seek medical help)
- sunken eyes
- for infants: sunken soft spot (fontanelle)
- nausea or vomiting
- lethargy or coma

If the symptoms are not severe, that is, if your child is feeling just uncomfortable from the heat, get him or her out of the sun into the shade or somewhere cool. Get him or her to sit or lie down, rest, and drink some fluids. If needed, you can cool him or her down with some cool water, cold towels, or a fan. If the child does not appear better soon (an hour max), and if you notice behavioural changes like irrational behaviour, confusion or disorientation, it is very important to go see a doctor immediately.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke (heat stroke may be deadly, it is important to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect your child is suffering from heat stroke.)
- increase core body temperature (usually above 40C)
- central nervous system dysfunction – can exhibit as altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, emotional instability, or irrational behaviour
- nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- headache
-dizziness or weakness
- hot and wet or dry skin
- increased heart rate
- fast breathing

Read More:
10 Sunscreens to Beat the Heat
Hottest. Day. Ever. 10 Easy Ways for You to Beat the Heat
Too Hot? 7 Ways to Handle a Heat Wave

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