Dog Days Of Summer

Another summer of record breaking heat is here. Everyone is feeling a little crabby and worn out and it’s no wonder why. The blistering heat and high humidity are more than just a nuisance.

Power outages have created unsafe conditions for millions — in just the past few days, more than 17 deaths have been reported and hundreds have been hospitalized with heat-related illnesses.

Given all of that, it’s important for mamas everywhere to focus on how to keep their families safe and comfortable during those dog days of summer.

WHAT TO KNOW:

Why? Their bodies produce more heat with activity than adults and they sweat less – bad news, since sweating is one of the main ways our bodies cool down. Kids are also less aware of how hot they are getting when playing or participating in a game of soccer or tennis. And as long as they’re having a good time, they might not want to take a break to rest or hydrate. Don’t forget that their bodies heat up 3-5 times faster than adults!

  • Some children are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

Overweight children, kids taking certain kinds of medications, those who have chronic health problems or participate in sports that require heavy uniforms like football or marching band, are all at increased risk.

  • Infants and small children can become dehydrated much faster than adults and older children because they can lose relatively more body fluids quickly.

Even when kids are in the water and seem to be keeping cool, they continue to perspire and can become dehydrated. They need to drink plenty of fluids regardless of how wet they are!

WHAT TO DO:

  • Suck it up

You and your kids need more fluids than usual when it’s hot, even if you’re just quietly hanging out at home. By the time thirst sets in, you are already dehydrated.

Avoid sugary drinks, sodas and caffeinated beverages like iced tea and coffee because they can cause you to lose more body fluid. Coconut water, on the other hand, is a great hydrator since it is packed with electrolytes and potassium. Plus, it’s delicious. Sports drinks can help, too, since they replace the salts and minerals lost through heavy sweating. But good, plain, old fashioned water is always the gold standard for basic hydration.

  • Chill

When the thermometer inches into the hot zone, stay inside and use the air conditioning. For some fun summertime activity ideas, click here. If you don’t have A/C, head to the mall, public library or local cool-off center in your town. Just a few hours in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler once you go back home.

Head to the pool but don’t forget the sunscreen and protective clothing. Sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself and also causes it to lose fluids.

When at home wear lightweight, loose clothing and as little as possible. When going outside opt for lightweight, light-colored, loose fitting clothing, hats, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen. Find the shade and take plenty of breaks there.

Keep infants out of baby slings as they will get very hot, very fast.

  • Use your noggin

Never leave children in a parked car for even a couple of minutes with the windows cracked. Approximately 38 children per year die in this totally preventable way! Heat stroke and death can happen very fast in children and even in cool weather, the temperature inside a car can increase 20 degrees in only 10 minutes. So that you don’t forget the sleeping baby in the back seat, put a stuffed animal on your purse in the seat next to you.

Eat light and keep the oven off. Hot foods and heavy meals add heat to already hot bods.

Limit outside activities and play quiet games indoors. Get your errands done early while it’s cooler.

Oh, and did I mention? Make sure you and your little guys drink a lot of fluids. And then, drink more!

 

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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