Even though the summer months are the most fun for spending time outdoors, “beating the heat” can be a hassle. While many areas of the country are prone to extreme heat, even “milder” summer temperatures (80-85 degrees) can pose problems. Here are some tips that even hot, summer lovers like myself should follow to keep cool and stay safe.
Stay inside during extreme heat: While extreme temperatures aren’t safe for anyone, this is particularly true for babies, seniors and pets. In the case of babies, their little bodies aren’t yet able to maintain a level body temp, and sometimes aren’t able to sweat to cool off. They are easily susceptible to heat stroke or worse if exposed to heat in long doses, so it’s best to keep them indoors until the heat breaks. Senior citizens and pets are also more prone to extreme dehydration and heat stroke if left outside, or without appropriate air conditioning to keep them cool. If your air conditioning breaks, or there is a power outage during a heat wave, it’s best to find a local shelter offering a cool space for you and your family to hang out until power is up or the wave is over. If such shelters don’t accept your pets, you can almost always find a pet shelter or kennel care that will take your pet temporarily to keep them safe.
Hydrate: This is important at all times, not just when the heat is extreme. Prolonged outdoor activity or exposure to even 75-85 degree weather can cause you to dehydrate more quickly, which can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. To avoid this, keep your outdoor activities to the cooler parts of the day (early morning or evening), avoid drinking liquids that dehydrate (like coffee/tea and alcohol), and drink lots of water.
Protect your skin and eyes: Even in the winter, it’s important to use SPF, so when you’re spending ample time outside, its importance is paramount. Always use an SPF 30 or greater (broad spectrum UVA/UVB), and avoid exposure between 10a.m. and 2p.m. Don’t forget to protect your eyes, either! Most sunglasses come with 100% UVA/UVB protection nowadays (even the cheapies!), but there are some that come with even greater eye protection (like blue blocking lenses, polarization, photochromic lenses, and mirror coated lenses). Constant sun exposure on eyes can lead to a number of degenerative eye disorders, including cataracts, so protect those peepers!
Car safety: Even in temps as low as the mid-70’s, the insides of cars can really heat up; and in the middle of summer, can reach up to 200 degrees! Plenty of people think it’s safe to run quick errands, leaving their pets and small children inside; I have three words for that: NO! NO! NO! Your child or pet will not scream, get upset, bark or whine since one of the first symptoms of heat exhaustion is fatigue; they may even simply doze off. According to the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, 33 small children died last year in the U.S. when left in hot cars. If you have to run errands in the summer, leave your pets at home, and either bring your child in with you at all times, or leave them with a sitter (by the way, leaving a small child unattended in a vehicle is actually illegal in many states, regardless of heat or other circumstances- even for 5 minutes).
While it pales in comparison to the above, when strapping your little tyke in to their car seats, boosters or seat belts, burns can be an issue. Before you even put your child in the car, it’s important to let your car run with the air conditioning for a few minutes. Not only will it make the temperature in the car itself safer, it will give the buckles and straps time to cool off.
Playground safety: While you’d like to think most playground architects think of heat as a factor when creating them, most of them don’t. In the summer months, metals and plastics on playgrounds can become extremely hot (especially if they’re in direct sunlight most of the day). Before letting your little one have run of the jungle gym, take a feel around to make sure they won’t inadvertently get a blistering burn from touching anything (especially the slide- ouch!).
If you’d like to learn more on summer safety of any kind, sites such as the American Red Cross or the CDC share a wealth of information.