How to keep your child safe in the summer heat

BY PENDA HONEYGHAN

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

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THE temperatures are rising outside and with the summer anticipated to get much hotter, there is at least one group of people that we have to make special preparation for — our little ones. This is particularly important, according to paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith, because excessive heat can be dangerous and even deadly, especially for babies, since their temperature-regulating systems are still undeveloped, which makes them predisposed to hyperthermia, and so, unlike adults, their systems struggle to keep them cool naturally.

Not to worry though, since Dr Griffith has the perfect guideline to get your child through this season without him/her becoming dehydrated or overheating.

Choose light, cotton based clothing

Light cotton-based clothing is breathable and also prevents moisture from building up between the baby's clothes and skin, making it less likely for the child to become hot and sweaty.

Keep kids hydrated

Dehydration can easily occur in babies with the rise in temperatures. And since babies can't tell when they are thirsty, it is important to ensure that you are constantly offering extra fluids, preferably water. Breastfed babies should be given additional liquids either from the breast or bottle, but you should avoid sugary drinks at all costs. Go for home-made fruit juices instead, if the child is over six months old. For older children you can offer fruits such as watermelon, or even cucumbers, which have a high percentage of water; freezing fruit pieces for them to suck on; flavouring water with fruits and vegetables like watermelon or cucumbers without adding sugar; or making fruit juice popsicles.

Keep bedding, light

Choose only a single, well-secured sheet that won't get loose and cover the baby's face or get entangled during the night. It is best to use a sheet of cotton fabric as this will also help to keep the baby cool.

Avoid direct sunlight

As best as you possibly can, you should aim to keep all children out of the direct sunlight because this can be dangerous. However, for babies younger than six months, this is particularly crucial since the skin does not have enough melanin to provide protection from the sun.

Limit outdoor exposure

Since it is unlikely that you will be able to avoid the heat and sunlight altogether, when outside, limit outdoor activities until late afternoon when it is much cooler.

Use window blinds

Invest in window blinds for both your home and your vehicle. These can provide shade and limit the amount of sunlight getting into these spaces.

Apply sunscreen

Since you can't avoid sunlight altogether, then sunscreen is among the best-known weapons to protect the skin. You want to be very careful when choosing a sunscreen for your children because some have the possibility to cause skin irritation because of the additives in some products. Ensure that whichever brand you settle on also protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Use caps and hats

Stock up on sun hats that are wide brimmed or have long flaps at the back to protect your little one's head and neck from the sun.

Plan outdoor activities wisely

Go outside during the evenings when the sun is less intense; you can do your usual backyard activities or even walk to the park then. If you can, set up a little paddle pool outside for the children. Playing in a paddling pool is a good way of keeping babies and children cool. If you choose to do this, however, make sure you choose a shaded area, keep it covered when it is not in use, and also supervise children and babies whenever they are in it or near it.

Avoid covering car seats and strollers with blankets

Blankets may be fashionable and you may be thinking about extra comfort for the baby, but this may increase temperatures, causing the baby to sweat more and to get hotter.

Use a fan that is oscillating or air conditioning where possible

To help with regulating the child's temperature, we sometimes need artificial sources of cool air, and air conditioners and fans get the job done.

Do not leave a baby or child in a parked car

This is DANGEROUS. NEVER do this no matter how much you believe you can judge the intensity of the heat. Temperatures in enclosed vehicles rise very quickly and so can the baby's temperature, putting them at risk for dehydration, sunburn and sunstroke. Also, even if you decide to leave the air conditioning on, do not leave children unsupervised in the vehicle.

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