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Helping kids beat the summer heat

Summertime is one of the best times for kids. They get to enjoy beautiful sunshine, time off from school, and lots of opportunities to get outside and explore. The summer heat, however, can be brutal. This year is no exception. Advisories about record-breaking heat indices are reported daily. While we want our children to get outside, we also want them to be safe. Keep reading for ways to help your kids beat the summer heat, keep cool and make the most of these long summer days.

Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more. Everyone knows that staying hydrated is one of the most important ways to beat the heat. Liquids are a must, but not all are created equal. Sugary and caffeinated drinks actually act as diuretics that make children more dehydrated. (I’ll just throw in here that alcohol has the same effect on parents.) Plain water is the best choice. Sports drinks with the right mixture of salts, sugars and electrolytes are good options as well, especially for children who are playing outside for more than one or two hours. Offer drinks often to kids to make sure they’re getting enough. By the time they say they’re thirsty, they’re probably already dehydrated. Have them each pack their own water bottle and keep an eye on how much they’re consuming.

In addition to drinks, you can use cold treats and foods to keep your kids hydrated. Make popsicles by freezing a mix of liquid (plain water, juice or coconut water) and fruit into popsicle molds (or ice cube trays) and let the kids eat these. Make smoothies with fruits and juices. Or just freeze fruits and eat them as snacks – frozen grapes or frozen chunks of watermelon, pineapple, mango, banana or strawberries all make cool, delicious treats.

Try to keep children out of direct sunlight. One of the best ways to do this is to play under large trees. The upper tree canopy blocks out a lot of the harsh sunlight and keeps moist, cool air low to the ground. You can also hang sun sails and canopies to provide shaded areas for children to play under.

Make sure you and the kids are dressed properly for the hot sunny weather. A tank top and shorts mayseem like the best choice, but be mindful of the fabric and how much skin is exposed. Even without sleeves, many thick or heavy fabrics can trap warmth and make children hotter. Bare arms could leave them exposed to a nasty sunburn. Loose-fitting, light-colored breathable fabric is best. Choose clothes that let air flow through and not get trapped. Also, look for clothing with built-in UV protection for days when they’ll be spending time in direct sunlight.

Let them get wet! Everything’s cooler if you just add water! Staying wet is a great way to stay cool in the summer and there are a million different fun ways for kids to play in the wettest way. Kids can have a water fight with the hose or water balloons. Sprinklers can be placed near a trampoline or slip n’ slide. Supervised dips in swimming pools, ponds and oceans are a sure way to cool down. If you’re out and about and need to cool off, wet a long strip of fabric and tie it loosely around your child’s neck. You can also keep a spray bottle filled with water in a cooler for quick face spritzes.

Most importantly, this summer, be able to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion in your children. Babies and toddlers have an increased risk of overheating as they are not as efficient at regulating their body temperature. It’s important to know the first signs of heatstroke or heat exhaustion and constantly be on the lookout for any symptoms if you’re going to spend time in the summer heat. The symptoms of heat exhaustion can include stomach and leg cramps, thirst, being tired, or cool moist skin. Touch your children often to feel the texture and temperature of their skin. If you notice any of these things, act immediately to cool your child down to prevent heat stroke.

There’s a ton of fun to be had outside this summer. Let’s make sure that it’s a safe and enjoyable one for our kids. If you have questions about heat exhaustion and how to manage it, don’t hesitate to reach out. Your pediatrician is here to help you raise happy and healthy kids.

• Dr. Tamarra Moss is a pediatrician committed to helping you raise happy and healthy kids. You can find her at Dr. Carlos Thomas & Pediatric Associates in New Providence, Lucayan Medical Center in Grand Bahama, or on Instagram @mykidsdoc242.

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