A cloudless sky, a warm breeze, the promise of long light. Who can resist a summer day? Summer days bring opportunities to hike with your family, splash in the water, or relax in the shade with a read-aloud book. As you share all of the joys of summer with your family, be sure to keep an eye on the weather report and plan your activities to consider hot weather.
Summer months can bring very high temperatures that can be hard for our bodies to fight. Most of the time, we cool our bodies naturally by giving off heat through the skin or sweating. When it’s too hot outside, this cooling system can fail and cause heat illnesses. A heat index at or above 90°F can pose a health risk, especially if you’re very active or unprepared for the heat. You can protect your family from getting heat illnesses, like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, by following these tips for staying cool.
Quick Facts about Hot Cars
Even if it’s only for a moment, you should never leave any member of your family (including pets) in the car. Cars heat up very quickly, and in just 10 minutes, the temperature in a car can go up by 20°F. Many people believe this is only a threat when it’s very hot outside, but heatstroke can happen when the outside temperature is as low as 57°F.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 15. When left in a hot car, a child's major organs begin to shut down when their temperature reaches 104°F, and a child can die when their temperature reaches 107° F.
To prevent a dangerous, potentially fatal situation, always check the back seat and make sure all children are out of the car before locking it and walking away. If you see an unattended child in a car and are concerned, you should immediately call 911.
Top Tips to Stay Cool
1. Hydrate throughout the day: Staying hydrated is especially important before and during activities in hot weather. Encourage your family to drink water throughout the entire day, even if they don’t feel thirsty. When it’s hot out, children 9-12 should be drinking 6-16 ounces of water every hour, and teens should drink about 34–50 ounces per hour.
Although sugary drinks may seem to quench thirst, soda and energy drinks cause your body to lose fluids. Children under the age of two should never have sugary drinks, and it’s best to limit these drinks in older children as well. Added sugars can lead to weight gain, cavities, and even diabetes. If you want to add some flavor to water, you can add fresh fruit, like berries, citrus, or apple slices.
When it is very hot, your family may sweat a lot, and sweating may cause them to lose essential minerals and salts. You can replace lost fluids by drinking electrolyte beverages like sports drinks.
2. Plan Ahead: Simple efforts to plan ahead can make a big difference in staying cool during hot weather. As temperatures rise, you may want to schedule outdoor activities and exercise when the sun is less powerful (evenings or early mornings). If you find yourself outside and the heat is becoming too powerful, go back inside or seek shade under a tree, umbrella, or other structure.
3. Dress for Success: During hot weather, dress for the heat by wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. It can also be helpful to wear lightweight clothing that covers your skin if you are going to be outdoors. You can learn more about protecting your skin in our sunscreen blog here.
4. Exercise Safely: Exercise is important for children and adults in your family, but it can be dangerous to over-exert yourself during hot weather. Pace exercise and schedule breaks in the shade if you are active outdoors. You can also beat the heat by being active in the water (swimming laps, water aerobics, tread water, etc.) or practice indoor exercise, including yoga or dance parties. There are hundreds of fun indoor exercise videos like this one that you can try when it’s too hot to be active outside.
5. Stay Inside: Air conditioning is the number one way to stay cool. If possible, it’s best to stay indoors in an air-conditioned space. If your home does not have air-conditioning, libraries, or indoor malls can be an excellent place for a cool retreat from the heat. Many local government agencies also have heat-relief shelters available as safe places for families during peak temperatures.
6. Keep Cool: A cool shower or bath can be refreshing and help cool down your body. If your family is short on time or bathroom space, simply sponging off with a cool washcloth or ice cubes can help too.
Heat exhaustion, a condition that results from your body overheating, can be very dangerous and lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition. Listen to your body and watch your family for signs of heat illness. Extreme heat can be dangerous for everyone, but it may be especially dangerous for people with children, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions. Here is how you can identify and respond to heat-related illnesses:
If you have questions about staying safe this summer, including how to treat sunburns or bug bites, talk to your doctor. If Hazel is available at your child’s school, you may be able to schedule a Hazel Home visit during summer break.