When is it Too Hot for Kids to Play Outside?  

Good luck keeping the kids indoors when school is out, their friends come knocking and the pools are open.    

Playing outdoors does wonders for a child’s physical and mental health. But before you send them out under the hot summer sun, you may want to brush up on some safety tips first.  

How hot is too hot for kids?

Monitoring the temperature during the summer is important, but don’t forget to keep a close eye on the heat index as well.  

The National Weather Service (NWS) states that a heat index at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit poses a significant health risk to children.  

Use caution when allowing kids to play outside in this type of environment. Playing underneath shade, inside swimming pools or in the water at a beach is generally safe in short spurts. However, playing under direct sunlight for long stretches of time could lead to overheating.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is typically the hottest.  

What are the side effects of extreme heat exposure in children?

Kids cannot regulate their body temperature the way adults can, making them more susceptible to significant health effects when exposed to extremely cold or extremely hot temperatures.  

Extreme heat can lead to several adverse physical health effects in children, including:  

  • Dehydration  
  • Fatigue 
  • Fever 
  • Headaches 
  • Heat cramps  
  • Intense thirst  
  • Irritability 

In extreme cases, children may develop heat exhaustion. Signs of heat exhaustion can include faintness, nausea, vomiting, hyperventilation and tingling or numbness of the skin. Kids can also become fearful, hopeless, or stressed out if exposed to prolonged periods of extreme heat.  

You should call your pediatrician or primary care doctor if your children experience any of the above symptoms of extreme heat or heat exhaustion. 

Tips for keeping kids cool and safe in the summer  

  • Bring sunblock: The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that kids wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.  
  • Make the most of the morning: The early morning hours before 10 a.m. are often the coolest of the day. Plan as much outdoor activity as you can during this time. 
  • Stay in the shade: If you must be outdoors during the hottest hours of the day, stay in the shade to avoid overheating.  
  • Dress the part: Reach for breathable fabrics like cotton, linen or athletic fabrics in light colors that whisk sweat and moisture away from the body. Loose-fitting clothing can also help keep the body cooler.   
  • Rest and hydrate: Whether you’re out on a family beach day or the kids are just playing in the backyard, it’s important for them to drink plenty of water and to take sporadic breaks inside the house to cool off.  
  • Pack accordingly for family trips: Pack a tent or large umbrella for trips to the pool or beach. That way, your kids can take breaks from playing under direct sunlight and get a little shade.  
  • Keep cooling devices handy: Want everyone to stay extra cool? Keep water misters or handheld fans in the house and in your bags.  

In the event of a heat wave – especially if you do not have air conditioning at your home or your air conditioner unit is broken – consider taking your kids to a friend or family member’s house. Or, to cool public places like libraries and shopping malls.  

Also, be sure to never leave children in unattended vehicles, not even for a minute; the inside of a car can get dangerously hot, even with the windows open.  

Photo credit: Getty Images

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