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Summer is here. Children want to run around and play. Many look forward to time outdoors enjoying the beautiful weather while it lasts. But it’s important to know that children can get very hot very quickly and need help to stay hydrated — or know when it’s too hot to play outside.
Especially when my children were young, it seemed like they weren’t even aware of the temperature at all. They could keep going and going if I didn’t make them stop for a drink, a dip in the pool or a quick hose down.
Bangor Metro talked with doctors who educated us on when it’s too hot for our kids to be outside in the summer months, what we can do to protect them before going out in the warm weather and signs to look for in our kids if we think they might be getting overheated.
Activity level matters
How active are your kids? That will help determine when is too hot for them to play outside.
“If they are running around in direct sunlight, a lot of kids will overheat in minutes even in the high 80s,” said Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
It also matters how they are being active. If it’s 100 degrees and they are swimming, playing with water toys and in the shade, going outside is okay if you are keeping a close eye on them.
A good rule of thumb, said S. Daniel Ganjuan, a pediatrician at John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, is to pay attention to how you feel outside. “If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your kids,” Ganjuan said. So, even if you are sweating while sitting under the shade, and they seem fine, it’s best not to risk it.
Pay attention to the heat index
Are you familiar with the heat index? That’s the measure of how hot it feels based on the temperature and humidity. For instance, an 88 degree day with 70 percent humidity feels like 100 degrees according to a chart prepared by the National Weather Service. (You can view that chart here.)
Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety Investigator for Consumersafety.org, said that keeping an eye on the heat index is a smart thing to do.
“When the heat index is 100 degrees or more, heat exhaustion is much more probable without safety measures taken,” Hoff said.
Never skimp on water, shade or sunscreen
So what can a parent do? Make sure your kids have shade, plenty of water and sunscreen whenever they are outside. Also, try to avoid spending long periods in direct sunlight.
Ganjuan also recommends dressing your children in light, long sleeve clothing. Always apply a safe sunscreen on children over 6 months old. This should be reapplied every two hours and after water play in order to be effective.
Babies under 6 months old should not use any kind of sunscreen though, Ganjuan said. With children that young, sun exposure should be avoided all together.
“Their skin is extra sensitive,” Ganjuan said.
Also, it’s important to note that the younger the child, the more likely they will overheat. “[They] are less likely to feel and understand the dangers of extreme heat,” Hoff said.
Warning signs to look for
If you are already outside on a warm day, it’s especially important to keep checking your children for signs of overheating.
Posner and Ganjuan both say to watch out for warning signs of overheating. “[These include] fever, decreased number of wet diapers, cranky behavior or being overly tired,” Posner said. If you notice these symptoms, they suggest a lukewarm bath, plenty of fluids and a call to your pediatrician.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s June/July 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.