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As the heat of summer settles around us, it is important to avoid overexposure to the sun and heat. Because of their less mature bodies, children are especially sensitive to the effects of the heat. Here are some tips for keeping cool this summer.
  • Use fans or air conditioning to keep indoor air moving.
  • Arrange outdoor play for before 10:00 a.m. and after 2:00 p.m. to avoid the worst sun of the day.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Encourage children to wear lightweight hats when they are in the sun. This practice is especially important for children with fair hair and very light skin.
  • Always apply sunscreen before going out. Check the label to be sure the sunscreen provides adequate protection and will not wear off quickly in water. There is no such thing as a "healthy tan." Using sunscreen to avoid a tan will lessen the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
  • Provide a lot of water. It is easy to lose fluids in the heat. Offer the children something to drink frequently throughout the day. A few ounces every 20 minutes is better than large amounts taken at infrequent intervals.
  • Provide shaded areas for outdoor play during hot sunny days. When temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit, children should not be involved in strenuous outdoor play for long periods of time.

With reasonable precautions, you and the children will probably withstand the heat fairly well. But it is also important to be alert for the warning signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

Heatstroke, which can be fatal, comes on rather suddenly. Warning signs include headache, weakness, and sudden loss of consciousness. Victims of heatstroke usually don't sweat much. Their pulses are very rapid and their skin is hot and dry. They also have extremely high body temperatures.

Heatstroke victims should be cooled off as quickly as possible by wrapping or immersing them in ice or cold water. After taking these emergency measures, take victims to the hospital immediately.

Heat exhaustion is a less serious but much more common condition. Warning signs include excessive urination, gradual weakness, nausea, anxiety or agitation, and excessive sweating. Unlike heatstroke, heat exhaustion causes pale, clammy skin, and a weak, slow pulse. Victims of heat exhaustion often feel faint or disoriented.

The best thing to do for victims of heat exhaustion is to have them take it easy for a while. Find them a shady spot or an air-conditioned building to sit or lie down in. Give them a few ounces of cool water every few minutes.

Heat cramps may also accompany heat exhaustion. They occur because the body has lost salt through heavy sweating. Typically, heat cramps occur first in the hands and feet. Water or foods that contain salt will usually relieve heat cramps quickly.

High humidity, overexertion, poor ventilation, and heavy clothing can all contribute to heat-related illness. Dehydration, diarrhea, age, and chronic illness can also make individuals more susceptible to these conditions. As you approach a summer of "fun in the sun," be sure to protect the children and yourself from the effects of the heat.

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Pankau, J.W. (1993). Hot weather tips. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Day care center connections*, 2(6), pp. 5-6. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.


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