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Is It Too Hot to Play Outside? Tips for Summer Safety Without Sacrificing Fun

This summer has been one of the hottest in recent memory, with high temperatures and high humidity combining for record heat indexes all season long. As the kids head back to school, they’re likely to spend just as much time outside with weekend and after-school activities, plus the kick-off of fall sports.

In this heat, it’s important for kids and parents alike to be mindful of the impact of heat and take precautions.

Make sure kids stay hydrated

During the summer, children are especially susceptible to dehydration and may not always be able to appropriately express their thirst. Children are more likely to lose fluid from sweating, especially in hot and humid weather, because they are more likely to be active throughout the summer, participating in outdoor activities, sports, and play. When kids are away from home at summer camps, gatherings, or the playground, it’s crucial to make sure they have easy access to a water bottle to encourage regular hydration.

Watch the weather

Here in the South, we know it’s not just the heat—it’s the humidity, too. The combination of the two – the heat index – is your best indicator of heat intensity. As the humidity rises, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to sweat, putting us at greater risk for heat stress-related issues.

It’s also important to note that the temperature doesn’t have to be extreme for it to be dangerous. According to The National Weather Service, a temperature of just 86 degrees paired with 90% humidity puts us in a dangerous heat index zone.

Be aware of hot playground surfaces

When the sun is out, metal playground equipment like slides and swing chains can become hot enough to burn. In addition, asphalt play surfaces can register temperatures as much as 50 degrees hotter than the ambient temperature. On a 90-degree day, that means an asphalt surface can reach upwards of 140 degrees, so going barefoot is not an option.

Look for playgrounds with shade trees, umbrellas, and other shade sources to keep the temperature down, and when possible, opt for playgrounds that offer non-metal play surfaces.

Be generous with sunscreen

Making sure your children have a nice coating of sunscreen is a perennial challenge. But protecting your children is a must during the summer and early fall months. Aim for SPF 30 or higher and apply 20 minutes prior to sun exposure. And don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours.

If you struggle with kids who worry about getting sunscreen in their eyes, encourage them to put on swim goggles before you spray. Older children can take responsibility for applying their own – with adult supervision – to give them a greater sense of control.

You can also provide your child with sunglasses to protect their eyes and a hat with a broad rim to block the rays.

Opt for water play when possible

When temperatures rise, running around in the direct sun can put your child at risk of overheating and dehydration. Whenever possible, try to schedule those activities early in the morning or the evening when the humidity may drop.

As temperatures hit their highest in the middle of the afternoon, consider incorporating water activities. Even at extreme temperatures, swimming is a great way to play and stay cool at the same time. Check out the neighborhood pool, consider an inflatable kiddie pool for the backyard, or just turn on the sprinkler for the kids to run through. Just be sure to be aware of the first bit of water that comes out of the hose or outdoor faucet on a sunny day – it can be scalding hot.

Watch for signs of overheating

It’s also important for parents and caregivers to recognize warning signs of overheating, which may vary depending on each child’s age. In babies, you may see fever, decreased wet diapers, or more crankiness and fatigue than normal. Older kids may feel nauseated, lightheaded, or experience muscle spasms or extreme thirst. It’s important to move the child out of the heat as soon as you start to see symptoms and make plans to visit a children’s urgent care center like FirstKids if they continue or worsen.

Visit FirstKids

You can enjoy hot weather days with a bit of careful planning and consideration—just be sure to keep everyone safe, healthy, and happy. If your child experiences any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you can take advantage of the medical professionals at FirstKids Urgent Care who are prepared to help. We can also provide back-up care – or provide primary care – for routine wellness checkups and vaccines. We are a walk-in facility serving the Tuscaloosa area, so there’s no appointment necessary. If it’s more convenient, you can schedule an appointment online here. FirstKids accepts all major insurance plans, as well as Medicaid and self-pay patients as well.

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