Protecting Your Kids from Heat-Related Illness This Summer


Summer is right around the corner, and the temperatures are already rising. Parents must be aware of heat-related illnesses that can happen quickly when keeping their children during the summer. As your children are at home during the summer, prepare them adequately to play outside so they do not experience any heat issues. Implementing effective strategies for your child to stay safe during the summer is crucial for their overall health.

Let’s look at a few ways you can keep your kids safe from heat-related illnesses this summer.

Keep your kids hydrated

Hydration is the number one factor all parents must know when their kids play outside during the summer heat. Hydration doesn’t start when they go outside, and they get hot. It starts beforehand. Ensure your kids drink plenty of water even when not going outside. Also, as we all know, kids can be picky, so select clear liquids or juices that do not contain a lot of sugar or caffeine if your child is balking at the idea of drinking water. Other hydrating options include Ceralyte 50, Cerasport, or a sports drink with minimal glucose, sodium, chloride, and potassium. Pedialyte or Kinderlyte may be another good option, as these drinks have added nutrients to replace electrolytes lost from sweating. Stay away from sugary sodas and even sugary athletic drinks. Remember, water is always best.

Choose the right clothing

Wearing the proper clothing is essential when kids play outdoors during the heat of summer. You want your kids’ clothes to be lightweight, loose, and light-colored. Choose fabrics like cotton that are breathable and allow for airflow. Also, hats and sunglasses should be considered to protect the face and eyes from the sun’s rays.

Always make sure your child is wearing sunscreen, no matter the clothing. It is suggested that children wear an SPF of 50 or above, especially for children 12 years and younger. Infants and toddlers need much more. Reapply sunscreen at least every couple of hours because the sweat will dilute and make the sunscreen disappear as they play.

 Plan outdoor activity times

The time of day plays a significant role when it comes to heat related illness. Typically, during the summer, it is best to let your kids play outside during the morning hours, usually from around 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and then in the afternoon, around 5 p.m. until dusk. To keep your kids safe from heat illness:

Plan outdoor activities during these time periods.

Bring them in for lunch and maybe a nap or indoor learning activities during the heat of the day.

Teach your children the signs of overheating while playing outside so they know when to come to you if they aren’t feeling well or if a friend is showing signs of heat illness.

Understanding the signs of heat illness

As a parent, it is essential to understand the signs of heat-related illnesses and know how to respond. Heat exhaustion is the most common form of heat-related illness and usually has symptoms of heavy sweating, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and weakness. If your child shows any of these symptoms, it is imperative to immediately get them into a cool environment. Apply cool, wet cloths to their forehead, back of the neck, and chest to help lower their body temperature. Do not use ice. Use cool water.

Heat stroke is the stronger form of heat illness and must be treated differently. If your child is showing severe symptoms due to the heat, like red, hot skin, isn’t sweating, shows signs of confusion, is extremely weak to the point where they can’t stand, or is even unconscious, seek medical attention immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, cool your child down by placing ice packs on their neck, armpits, and groin.

Using these tips will help ensure your children are able to have a fun and safe summer outdoors and help prevent heat related illnesses. By prioritizing hydration, ensuring they wear the right clothing, are outside at the right times of day, and, as a parent, understand the signs of heat-related illness, you can be sure your child is safe during these long, hot summer months.

Dr. Nichole Shiffler

Dr. Shiffler, a Naturopathic Medical Doctor at Be Well Medical Primary Care in Chandler, Arizona is a graduate of the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, now known as Sonoran University, and specializes in holistic, integrative, and personalized care to meet her patient’s health concerns.

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