Summer means fun, swimming and outdoor activities. In Utah, it also means sunburns and sometimes heat-related illnesses because of the extremely hot and dry weather.
Michael Severance, a physician's assistant at MountainStar Ogden Pediatrics, says some of the early signs and symptoms of heat distress parents can watch for include unusual fatigue and tiredness, diminished eating/drinking, and a lack of interest in play or normal activity
"If you’ve been in the sun at the lake all day and a child exhibits withdrawal or starts shutting down, it’s time to act," Severance says.
As heat illness progresses, patients can experience increased fatigue, increased heart rate, fever above 101 and diminished sweating, Severance reports.
There are a series of activities that will make your kids more prone to experiencing dehydration, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke, but there are also cautionary steps that will keep your child healthy and happy during the summer.
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Surprisingly, children have "higher water requirements in relation to their body weight compared to adults," according to the U.K.'s Natural Hydration Council. Kids need water especially when they are sweating more due to both increased activity and warmer temperatures. They also may not exhibit signs of dehydration as obviously as adults. When mild, dehydration will cause headaches, fatigue and inability to focus. When severe, it can lead to heat exhaustion and other serious illnesses.
Make sure children have access to water at all times — unsweetened, pure water. Whether 3 or 17 years old, if your child does not have a water bottle, get one for them. Make it special and make it their own so they take care of it and get in the habit of constantly drinking water.
2. Avoid the hottest part of the day
Depending on where you live, peak heat times are usually between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. MountainStar Healthcare encourages parents to keep their children away from the sun during those peak hours.
Try to plan museum trips or other indoor activities during that time, especially on the hottest days. Invite children to start their neighborhood baseball game after dinner. They will still have plenty of time to play outside because the sun goes down after 9 p.m. in the summer.
3. Reapply that sunscreen
No matter what the label says, sunscreen will rub off or sweat off eventually. Reapply sunscreen about every two hours. Use a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) protection every time you and your child go outside, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
4. Keep their clothes light
The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that one big factor in overheating in children is the clothes they are wearing. Whether it is a casual T-shirt and jeans at the park or their soccer jersey and sweatpants, the clothes they wear can retain heat and escalate symptoms of any heat-induced illness.
This means that if your child is playing a sport or really pushing themselves during peak temperature hours of the day, make sure they are not layering up too much or wearing clothes that do not breathe well. Make sure your kids are wearing clothes made of cotton, linen or rayon. Those fabrics are light, wick sweat well and breathe.
5. Take lots of breaks
When it is hot, have your children take a break every hour. Whether they're water breaks, shade breaks or food breaks, in that time make sure your kids are not overexerting themselves. Taking breaks will not only slow down their heart rates, but the pause will also help them calm down enough to recognize whether they are hungry, thirsty or tired.
6. Don't leave anyone in the back seat
Summer can be especially busy with school out and constant activities for the kids. It is easy to have your children wait in the car while you are running a quick errand or forget someone in the car seat for a few minutes. In the summer heat, the temperature in your car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes, as the Mayo Clinic notes. Your child can become dehydrated and overheated quickly.
7. Put on a hat
Sometimes, no shade is available, so you need to make your own. A hat with a wide brim can take care of that. Not only does it keep the head cool, but it also covers the face, which is affected by overexposure to the sun faster than other parts of the body. Severance explains sombreros were never intended to be a fashion statement.
With the combination of Utah's desert climate and high-adventure social culture, it is easy to forget that there are risk factors for your kids staying outside in that summer heat. If you make sure to do the little things, your family will stay safe and healthy. To continue keeping your whole family healthy, visit MountainStar Healthcare.