Tips to Survive the Summer Heat
By Piyumi Fonseka, MD
It’s the hottest time of year and also time for end-of-summer vacations and sports practices to start. We all want to get outside and enjoy the longer days but the humidity and heat often put a damper on our plans. Here are some tips to keep your family safe in the hot summer heat.
When planning family outings in the summer, try to look ahead and find out what the heat index (a measure of how hot it will actually feel when you factor in humidity) will be. Children are at greater risk for complications of heat stress than adults are since they aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures as well as we can.
Once it is over 90 degrees, you will want to exercise extreme caution to avoid heat stress. On days like this, it is best to try to find activities that are in air-conditioned spaces such as indoor play gyms, the aquarium, museums, etc.
If you must be outside, try to take breaks in shaded areas as frequently as you can. Activities involving water are great ways to cool off, whether it’s a dip in the pool or running through a sprinkler. Looking ahead and planning your day based on the temperature outside can help you decide on your activity as well as your clothing. It is best to try to stick to lighter weight and lighter colored clothing for the family. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen!
One of the most important things to keep in mind, especially on very hot days, is hydration. Encourage your children to drink water throughout the day to prevent feeling thirsty and getting dehydrated. For infants less than six months old, offer extra breastmilk or formula. When your kids are outside and active, remind them to take water breaks every 20-30 minutes.
There are also some important reminders while traveling by car with your children. Unfortunately, we have all heard more and more reports of ‘hot car deaths’ in children and infants. Trying to keep your personal items such as your cell phone or purse in the back seat can serve as a reminder to check the back before you leave your car, especially if you have had a change in routine in which you would normally not have your child with you. Leaving your child in the car to run an errand or make a quick stop is NEVER safe given the fact that cars can reach dangerously high temperatures very quickly. Phone apps, such as Waze, have recently been developed to be able to remind you to check if your child is still in the car.
Towards the end of summer break, schools often start sports practices. This is often when the heat index is still fairly high. There are several precautions that children and coaches can take to avoid becoming ill from the excessive heat. We have touched on a few of these already such as light clothing, hydration and rest.
It is helpful to try to schedule activities and practices during the early morning or later afternoon/evening and have cold water available at all times so athletes can take water and rest breaks about every 15-20 minutes. Exercising on a high heat index day can lead to exercise related heat illness or injury if the proper precautions are not taken. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are types of illnesses that can occur. If a child or athlete feels dizzy, lightheaded or nauseated, they should immediately stop exercising, be moved to a cooler location and given a lot of cool fluids. Those athletes that develop a very high body temperature (>104 degrees) and confusion should be evaluated for heat stroke. A coach or parent should call 911 to get them checked out immediately.
Heat related illnesses are common but very preventable. Taking time to look ahead and plan your day based on the heat can be helpful, as well as taking precautions while you are out, such as picking proper clothing, staying hydrated and finding a cool or shaded area to rest. With a few careful precautions, you can ensure your summer break is safe and enjoyable for the entire family.
Article originally published at Chesapeake Family Life.