Summertime in the sunbelt is fun for kids and parents alike, and Houston is the perfect place for kids to enjoy the sunny, warm weather. With children enrolling in summer camps and sports camps full of outdoor activities and games, it’s important to be aware of potential heat safety concerns.
More childhood deaths and injuries occur during the summer months than any other time of year. Keeping this in mind, there are important steps parents should take as children move from air-conditioned houses to outdoor play and activity. Be sure to take preventive action against accidents that can occur because of the heat, and understand what to do when children become overheated.
The first step in heat safety is remembering to drink lots of fluids. Children should always be drinking more when they are, or are planning to be, outdoors. Most kids need about twice as much fluid during summer months as they would normally drink. Parents should make sure to offer fluids to their children frequently and not wait until a child is thirsty to offer them water, because this may be too late.
Drinks containing carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, can be given to those children and young adults who may be involved in strenuous sports or activities; however, water is the preferred drink of choice for all exposed to the heat.
Remember to dress appropriately given the weather. Kids should wear a lightweight and light colored t-shirt and hat when outside to prevent sunburn. Look for sunglasses that offer UV protection. It is important to realize that cloud coverage does not protect against UV rays, and precautionary measures should be taken even when it is cloudy. There is overwhelming evidence that chronic sun exposure and sunburns (particularly in childhood) increase an individual’s lifetime risk of all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma. In fact, one blistering sunburn as a kid can double your chance of developing melanoma later on.
If outdoor play or activities are planned be sure to apply sun block 15 to 30 minutes before going outside and that it is reapplied generously every two to three hours (more often when swimming or sweating). When purchasing sunscreen, look for a product with SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 and “Broad Spectrum” coverage. This means it protects against both ultraviolet A and B rays from the sun. Also, whenever possible, stay in shaded areas and ensure limited exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Infants under the age of 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
When sunburns do happen, soothe them with a bland emollient such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline or Aquaphor) and take children’s pain medicine as directed. Lastly, parents should remember to set a good example for their children by protecting themselves from excessive sun exposure as well.
Pools offer a great escape from the heat, but a day of fun can quickly turn into an emergency situation. Drowning is the second leading cause of death of children (and the leading cause of death in children ages one to four). Most drowning incidents occur in summertime, and they do not look like the splashing and screaming event portrayed in movies. In fact, children are unable to scream and call for help when drowning. All children and young adults should be supervised near pools by someone in addition to a lifeguard. If you have your own pool at home, be sure to keep a watchful eye on swimming children and make sure they are able to come up for air. Additionally, most children would benefit from some type of swim class, but they will still need to be supervised when around pools to reduce the risk of water-related injuries and accidents. When outside the pool, remember to always walk and never run in case of slippery spots. When on or around a boat, make sure your child has a life jacket or a personal flotation device.
Cars get hot, FAST. As a basic rule of thumb, NEVER leave your child alone in a car. Even with the windows cracked, this is a very dangerous situation, so dangerous that it is in fact against Texas law to leave children younger than seven years old in a car alone.
Even when the outside temperature is only 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside an enclosed vehicle can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The most important safety concern related to hot cars is rising body temperature. Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit (a body temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit is considered lethal). A young child’s core body temperature may increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. This can cause permanent injury or death. To be safe, don’t let children play in parked cars and keep all doors locked so that a young child does not accidentally lock him or herself in a parked vehicle.
Be Attentive: Signs of Overheating
Sports practices, workouts and even outdoor camps can be tough on kids during the brutal heat of summertime, especially in Texas. Kids can easily become overheated or dehydrated when preventive measures are not taken. When this occurs, be able to spot the signs early. These include:
• Headaches and/or nausea
• Red, hot and dry skin with minimal sweating
• High body temperature
• Strong pulse
• Loss of consciousness
These symptoms require immediate action. Heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke when action is not taken. Take the child to a shaded area or an air-conditioned building if possible. Give them cold water to drink. Cool them down with cold water, a cold washcloth or a cold bath. If a child becomes unconscious call 911 immediately; this situation requires immediate medical attention.
Remembering these tips and following these basic suggestions will help to ensure that your children and family are safer when heading outdoors. So have fun, be safe, and enjoy these sunny summer days.
• Fluids are essential.
• Dress appropriately.
• Always wear sunscreen and reapply consistently.
• Keep a watchful eye on swimming children.
• Wear a lifejacket.
• Watch for signs of heat exhaustion.
• Take immediate action if your child is unconscious.
• Cars get hot FAST; never leave a child unattended in the car.