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Staying Safe in the Summer Sun

The summer is a fabulous time to be spending outdoors with friends and family. Whether it’s having picnics, playing games, having a swim or any other outdoor activity, outside coming with so many health and developmental benefits for children. It also brings an appreciation for nature, something that is incredibly important for children today.

However, the heat can be incredibly dangerous at times, and extra care needs to be taken especially this time of year to ensure everyone’s safety out in the sun; it goes far beyond just using sunscreen. Children are particularly at risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke/sunstroke this time of year, and the signs may not always be obvious.

What is heat exhaustion/heatstroke?

Heat exhaustion occurs when you become very hot to the point where you’re losing water and salts from your body. It leaves you feeling generally unwell. If it isn’t taken care of, it can lead to heat stroke.

While heat exhaustion is certainly something to worry about, heat stroke is much worse. It means your body is unable to cool itself down and starts to overheat, causing it to not function correctly.

The rate at this can occur can be anything from minutes to over the course of a few days even.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness/weakness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle cramps, particularly in legs/stomach.
  • Extra thirsty
  • Faster than normal pulse
  • Urinating less often, with any urine being darker than normal.

These signs are easier to notice in babies and young children than those that occur with heatstroke. Again, if left untreated, heat exhaustion can easily turn to heatstroke.

Symptoms of heatstroke

  • High temperature
  • No longer sweating
  • Hot, dry skin that may also be red/pink.
  • Vomiting
  • Restless
  • Headache (could lead to irritability)
  • Confusion
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shows signs of dehydration

What to do if you suspect your child has heat exhaustion/heatstroke

If you suspect your child might have heatstroke, then do not wait to act. Immediately call emergency services first before doing anything else.

Undress your child completely and lay them down in a cool area. Use a soft cloth or sponge wet with cool water to dab over your baby’s body until emergency services arrive. Use a small fan to help cool him/her down, or even use a piece of paper or your hand if you must to allow cool air to reach them. Do not give anything to drink at this point (it may just come back up and make things worse) nor should you give them any medicines to help lower the temperature as it will not be effective at this point.

If you suspect that your child has heat exhaustion, this is a lot milder and can be treated at home. Bring your child indoors where it is cool. Again, have a fan to help cool down their body or use a makeshift until they’re feeling a bit better. Get them to drink fluids; this can be milk (breast or formula) for the very young babies and ideally water for children older than four months. Stay with your child until they start to feel better and acting more normal, which is usually around 30 minutes and keep them indoors for the rest of the day. If after a half hour the symptoms do not seem to be improving, get medical attention.

Again, if you suspect it could be heatstroke rather than heat exhaustion, or even if you aren’t sure, seek medical help ASAP.

How to prevent heat exhaustion/heatstroke

It can be too easy for babies and young children to get heatstroke, however, there are plenty of ways to help prevent it from occurring.

Dress your child in light, loose-fitting clothing, and stay in the shade as much as possible. If you are going somewhere sunny, bring a large umbrella, like a beach umbrella, if possible. Avoid keeping your child in a stroller. Despite the shade, the cover can bring, it can get really warm in that seat.

Bring more fluids than you would normally bring with you on trips out and offer them often to stay hydrated. Keep a small pocket fan handy just in case. On those very hot days, avoid spending a prolonged amount of time outside.

There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be able to spend some time outdoors this summer. In fact, you really should bring your baby out to play and explore the outdoors! Just stay aware of the heat, keep to the shade, and have plenty of fluids. Know when it’s time to come inside and cool down and use your time wisely. There’s lots of fun to be had outside!

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