Sun Safety

Top tips on how to stay safe – cool, hydrated and reducing the risks of heat exhaustion, heat stress or heat stroke.

Health risks from heat

Children cannot control their body temperature as efficiently as adults during hot weather because they do not sweat as much and so can be at risk of ill-health from heat. Heat- related illness can range from mild heat stress to potentially life-threatening heatstroke. The main risk from heat is dehydration (not having enough water in the body). If sensible precautions are taken children are unlikely to be adversely affected by hot conditions, look out for signs of heat stress, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat stress

Children suffering from heat stress may seem out of character or show signs of discomfort and irritability (including those listed below for heat exhaustion). These signs will worsen with physical activity and if left untreated can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Heat exhaustion

Symptoms of heat exhaustion vary but include one or more of the following:

  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • hot, red and dry skin
  • confusion

Heatstroke

When the body is exposed to very high temperatures, the mechanism that controls body temperature may stop working. Heatstroke can develop if heat stress or heat exhaustion is left untreated, but it can also occur suddenly and without warning.

Symptoms of heatstroke may include:

  • high body temperature – a temperature of or above 40°C (104°F) is a major sign of heatstroke
  • red, hot skin and sweating that then suddenly stops
  • fast heartbeat
  • fast shallow breathing
  • confusion/lack of co-ordination
  • fits
  • loss of consciousness

Actions to protect children suffering from heat illness

The following steps to reduce body temperature should be taken immediately:

  1. Move the child to as cool a room as possible and encourage them to drink cool water (such as water from a cold tap).
  2. Cool the child as rapidly as possible, using whatever methods you can. For example, sponge or spray the child with cool (25 to 30°C) water – if available, place cold packs around the neck and armpits, or wrap the child in a cool, wet sheet and assist cooling with a fan.
  3. Dial 999 to request an ambulance if the person doesn’t respond to the above treatment within 30 minutes.

If a child loses consciousness, or has a fit, place the child in the recovery position, call 999 immediately and follow the steps above until medical assistance arrives.

Babies are not as good at regulating their body temperature so it’s important to keep them cool as possible. Hopefully these tips will help.

Try to keep the room as cool as possible

Ideally the room where your baby sleeps should be kept at about 16-20 degrees but in the hot weather this can be really difficult.

  • Create a flow of air by having as many windows open as possible and have the curtains or blinds partly closed during the day to protect from direct sunlight.
  • If you have a fan, pop a bottle of frozen water or bowl of ice in front of it so it cools the air as it moves.
  • If you are worried about the room temperature then it may be worth having a room thermometer to keep an eye out.

Think about bedding

  • Use cotton sheets and blankets.
  • Avoid using waterproof sheets, as these can be sweaty for the baby and make them overheat.
  • Avoid swaddling your baby so they can kick off the blanket more easily if they get hot.

Dressing your baby

  • Do not be afraid to leave your baby to sleep in only a nappy if it is hot in the room, especially above 24 degrees.
  • If your baby doesn’t like this, then just pop a thin cotton blanket or muslin as a single layer over them.
  • When checking your baby’s temperature, feel their chest or the back of their neck as their hands and feet will be cooler than the rest of their body.

Feeding your baby

  • If you breastfeed your baby you may find they want to feed a little more often. They shouldn’t need any water if they’re under 6 months old as breast milk is as hydrating as water.
  • If your baby is having formula then they may need a little cooled boiled water but try to keep this to a minimum and not just before a feed.

Being out and about during the day

  • It’s really important to avoid placing a blanket or cover over the buggy or pram as this stops air circulating and can make it even hotter for the baby and stops the air from circulating which can increase the risk of SIDS (SUDDEN Infant Death Syndrome)
  • Use factor 50 or higher sun cream on babies over the age of 6 months. Babies under 6 months should be kept in the shade or should wear a hat to shade them if you are walking about.
  • Regularly check your baby’s temperature and be prepared that they may need feeding a little more often.

Protecting older children

During periods of high temperature, the following steps should be taken:

  • children should not take part in vigorous physical activity on very hot days, such as when temperatures are in excess of 30°C
  • encourage children playing outdoors to stay in the shade as much as possible
  • use sunscreen (at least factor 15 with UVA protection) to protect skin if children are playing outdoors.
  • provide children with plenty of water (such as water from a cold tap) and encourage them to drink more than usual when conditions are hot:
  • open windows as early as possible in the morning, or preferably overnight to allow stored heat to escape
  • almost close windows when the outdoor air becomes warmer than the air indoors – this should help keep the heat out while allowing adequate ventilation
  • use outdoor sun awnings if available, or close indoor blinds or curtains, but do not let them block window ventilation
  • keep the use of electric lighting to a minimum
  • oscillating mechanical fans can be used to increase air movement if temperatures are below 35°C – at temperatures above 35°C fans may not prevent heat-related illness and may worsen dehydration
  • encourage children to eat normally and drink plenty of cool water
  • Never leave your child in a parked car

Taken form www.tommys.org & https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/heatwave-plan-for-england/looking-after-children-and-those-in-early-years-settings-during-heatwaves-for-teachers-and-professionals