Summertime play: stay safe and beat the heat while making the most of outdoor play

Expert Advice  |  3 years ago

Summertime play: stay safe and beat the heat while making the most of outdoor play

School’s out, and kids are ready to enjoy long days of outdoor play, but as we head toward the dog days of summer, it’s important to make sure they stay safe while having fun.

Kids are resilient, and they sometimes seem less affected by temperature - either high or low - than adults, especially when they are really caught up in play, but they are also more vulnerable to heat exhaustion or heat stroke than we are, so it’s imperative to be aware of just how hot it is, and take precautions to protect your child.

The first thing to keep in mind is the heat index when your kids are about to go out to play. The heat index takes into account both heat and humidity. Actual temperature plus relative humidity equals how hot it feels. For instance, 88 degrees fahrenheit with 85% humidity equals a heat index of 110 degrees. That’s really hot (you probably didn’t need us to tell you that), so it may be a better day to play inside or hit the pool and stay in the shade. In general, when the heat index reaches 100 degrees or higher, it can be dangerous to be outdoors for any significant amount of time. The National Weather Service has a heat index calculator if you want to figure out heat index where you are.

As we mentioned above, kids can be at risk of heat exhaustion or, more seriously, heatstroke if they spend too much time outside in extreme heat. When your kids are outside on hot days make sure to watch for any signs of heat exhaustion to catch it as early as possible and avoid anything more serious.

Signs of heat exhaustion include: increased thirst, weakness or tiredness, muscle cramps, nausea, irritability, increased sweating, cool clammy skin, a rise in body temperature, dry lips or tongue. If your child exhibits any of these signs, you will want to get them out of the sun - either inside or in the shade - immediately, make sure they take frequent sips of water, get them undressed if possible, and have them either take a lukewarm bath or spray them with lukewarm water.

Signs of heatstroke include: severe headache, weakness or dizziness, confusion, fast breathing and heartbeat, fainting, seizures, little to no sweat, flushed hot, dry skin, body temperature above 105 degrees. For heatstroke you need to get emergency medical care immediately.

Your best bet, of course, is to prevent heat exhaustion in the first place. On hot days, limit the amount of time spent in the sun, find places to play with lots of shade or make use of tents, umbrellas or awnings. Use hats and apply sunscreen. Make sure there is readily available fluid at all times. Kids should be taking routine sips of water throughout the day, and you might want to schedule in water breaks every 15-30 minutes if your kids are too caught up in play to take breaks on their own. Water play is also a great way to beat the heat even if it’s just the sprinkle attachment on the hose. 

It also helps to give kids snacks that are high in water content like watermelon, fruit kabobs, or frozen grapes, all of which are popular with kids (and will help them get a little more fruit in their diet).

Summer and outdoor play naturally go together, but it is important to make sure kids are safe and comfortable, too. 


Children's Medical Center

Kid's Health

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