It’s hot out there and kids from coast to coast are going back to school. As a former classroom teacher in Phoenix, I well remember the sight of 25 sweaty, red faces coming in to class after lunchtime recess!
If your kids are going back to school and you’re concerned about the heat, here are a few tips that I shared recently on The Weather Channel. They’re simple ways to help kids stay cool.
Teach kids to be self-aware when it comes to overheating. When kids are outside, playing like crazy, they may very well go past the age of just sweating to full-on heat exhaustion. The next time you see them with sweaty, red faces, point out, “It looks like your body is overheating.” They have probably seen electronics overheat and then shut down. Teach them that their body is very similar. When it overheats, they need to take some time out to allow their body to cool down.
A few symptoms to know and to teach:
- Nausea — All kids know what it’s like to feel sick to their stomachs. They’ll get the same feeling when their body becomes overheated, to the point of heat exhaustion.
- Vomiting — An overheated kid may very well start throwing up. At that point they’re not only overheated but losing fluids as well.
- Cramps — Sharp muscle and stomach cramps are another symptom. The next time your child experiences a cramp, be sure to give it a name, “cramp”, and let them know it’s a muscle saying, “Something is wrong!”
- Super-thirst — When a body reaches the level of heat exhaustion, it cries out for water and more water. When a few gulps of water isn’t enough, it’s time for your child to know they need to rest and get out of the heat.
- Dizziness — An over-heated body begins to feel light-headed and dizzy. This is another symptom that many children are familiar with.
- Weakness — When a child feels too weak to play any longer, it’s a big warning sign that their core temperature is above normal.
As kids learn these symptoms, be sure to give them explicit permission to let their teacher, coach, or another adult know their body is over-heating. In sports, especially, kids are encouraged to, “give it your all,” but not to the point of a heat stroke! Kids need to know that they will not be in trouble for listening to their bodies’ warning signs.
2. Shade, water, and air flow
These three are needed to create the perfect weapon against heat exhaustion. Fortunately, it’s super easy to put these pieces into play. Teach your kids to memorize these and find ways to
- A simple cotton hat with a brim is ideal for providing shade that goes wherever the child goes. It can be rolled up and stored in a locker or backpack, and, if you have a Food Saver vacuum sealer, you can seal the hat into a vacuum packed bag so it takes even less room! Bonus: Wet the hat down before wearing to combine shade and water!
- Teach kids to look for a shady spot to rest when they’re feeling overheated.
- Bring along a large beach umbrella or a shade canopy to sporting events.
- The proper clothing for hot weather isn’t what you’d think. Most kids will want to wear shorts and tank tops on hot days, but in fact, exposed skin will overheat far more quickly than skin that is covered in light colored, thin cotton fabric. It also helps protect against sunburn and dehydration.
- A bandana or similar-sized piece of cloth can be tucked into a pocket or backpack. Teach your child to wet the bandana and wear it around his or her neck for an instant cooling effect. A couple of ice cubes rolled into the fabric is even nicer on a hot day. One of these cooling neck wraps require only water to help the body stay cool. It would be a good idea to keep 1 or 2 in the car for those warm-weather breakdowns.
- Schools will likely not allow kids to bring a spritzer bottle full of water, but do carry one to outdoor school and sports events for instant cool. Check out the Misty Mate, a portable mist system. I used to bring these to my kids’ swim meets, and in the middle of a hot Phoenix summer, they worked great.
- Add a squeeze of a lemon or orange to your bottle of water to add a bit of flavor and Vitamin C.
- Get each kid their own color-coded water bottle. I prefer these over the store-bought bottled water, simply because they can be refilled thousands of times.
- Kids should drink plenty of tepid-to-cool water. Ice water can cause stomach cramps when a child is overheated. Add a few slices of strawberries, apples, and other fruit for an instant hydrating treat.
- Air Flow
- It’s probably been a while since you saw an old-fashioned collapsible hand fan, but these do a great job for helping a body stay cool. They can be found at import stores and online. Bonus: They make a great low-tech addition to any emergency kit!
- Small battery-powered fans don’t take up much room but when combined with shade and water, can go a long way toward avoiding heat exhaustion. If you make no other purchase, buy one or two of these. Not only are they super-handy because they’re so portable, but they are also an invaluable prep for power outages.
- Teach kids to watch for signs of breezes in trees and other greenery. Sometimes nature provides the ultimate in low-tech air flow!
Be aware of how much time is needed for a body to cool down. If your child is just sweaty and red-faced, they may need just a few minutes in the shade and some water before they’re ready to continue. However, a child who is exhibiting the more advanced stages of heat exhaustion will need far more time for their core body temperature to normalize.
If your child reaches that point, immerse them in a tub of tepid water for at least 20-30 minutes. Be sure their head is also immersed in the water. If they show signs of losing consciousness or begin convulsing, call 911 immediately.
Kids can easily learn these signs of overheating and simple strategies to stay cool.
TIP- Discover ways to save on electricity and stay cool when it is hotter than hell outside!