Tips to stay healthy in the heat
Updated: June 11, 2012 8:17AM
With summer right around the corner, there are steps you can take to keep your kids safe from the high temperatures and scorching rays of the sun.
It is especially important to keep your kids hydrated when you’re dealing with extreme heat during summer months. Dehydration puts kids at risk for heat-related illnesses like heat stroke. It also can cause rhabdomyolysis, which is when muscles break down. This process can lead to kidney failure.
The following tips will help to keep your kids hydrated this summer:
Prehydrate. Even before you step out the door, have your kids start drinking water.
Be prepared. Don’t count on buying water at your destination or using drinking fountains as you see them. Always pack water for outside activities. Get a stainless steel, environmentally friendly water bottle and keep it filled and with you at all times.
Hound your kids to drink water. Kids need to drink water to stay hydrated; not juice, soda or milk. One strategy is to withhold the treats they want until they drink the water their bodies need.
Limit outside activity in the heat. Try to avoid having your kids running and playing outside during the hottest time of day, which is usually in the mid to late afternoon.
Take a lot of water breaks. Interrupt your kids’ playtime periodically for water breaks. Kids get so caught up in what they are doing that they don’t stop for a drink of water. It’s your job to be on the lookout for dehydration and to make sure they’re hydrated.
Start good hydration early. Infants often are at great risk for dehydration since they can’t obtain the water they need on their own. Start giving your child water between 6-9 months, so the child gets used to the concept of drinking it.
Watch for signs of dehydration. With such extreme temperatures, dehydration can happen quickly. Signs your kids aren’t getting enough fluid include: crying but not making tears; sunken eyes; decreased urine output and tenting of the skin, which you can determine by pinching the skin on the back of the hand and releasing it quickly. If it takes time for the skin to return to normal, your child might be dehydrated.
Avoid heat stroke
Dehydration isn’t the only risk of summer heat. Heat stroke can occur when the body temperature is elevated for an extended period. Avoid this by keeping your kids indoors in an air-conditioned or well-ventilated building when there is a heat or ozone warning. If you have to go outside, stay out of the sun.
Warning signs of being overheated include confusion, dizziness, unusual fatigue and lack of perspiration. Take your child’s temperature. If it rises without signs of infection, contact your pediatrician immediately.
We all need some sun exposure, but too much can cause skin damage, eye damage and cancer. Tips to keep kids safe from dangerous ultraviolet rays include:
Apply sunscreen generously. Slather on sunscreen about 15-30 minutes before going outside. Make sure you are using at least a 30 SPF sunscreen, preferably one that is sweat-proof and waterproof, if your child plans to go swimming. Also, make sure often overlooked areas such as the tops of the feet and tips of the ears are covered.
Reapply sunscreen every few hours. Sunscreen can wear off, leaving kids vulnerable to damaging rays. Be sure to re-apply sunscreen, if outside for extended periods of time.
Wear sunglasses, a hat and SPF clothes. It is never too early to teach your kids how to protect their skin from the sun. Sun protective clothing has become increasingly popular for kids. Make sure your kids have the proper gear to prevent a burn.
Brent Rieger, M.D., is an instructor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and a pediatrician an internist at Loyola University Health System.