As schools swing open their doors to welcome students back after the summer break, the persistent heat of the season brings about a renewed focus on ensuring the safety and well-being of children during scorching weather. When children are exposed to extreme heat, common issues that can arise are dehydration, heat exhaustion, and sunburn. Less common but more concerning problems are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Chad Vercio, MD, Division Chief of General Pediatrics at Loma Linda University Health, offers expert tips to keep students safe.
One of the primary concerns that Vercio highlights is dehydration. As temperatures rise, children and teens might not drink enough water to keep up with their bodies' cooling needs leading to potential health issues. "Symptoms such as lightheadedness when standing up and late-day headaches can be warning signs of dehydration," said Vercio. "If they feel faint, weakness, headache, nausea, or muscle cramps, they should inform their teacher immediately."
In addition to drinking water, parents are encouraged to pack nutritious and water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, cucumbers, and grapes to help children stay refreshed and replenished throughout the day.
Physical activity remains an integral part of a child's education, and schools are working to balance providing opportunities for exercise and safeguarding against heat-related risks. Scheduling outdoor activities during cooler morning hours can help minimize the chances of heat-related issues, according to Vercio.
Sunscreen and sun protection are essential during hot weather. Vercio says parents can send sunscreen to school for children to apply if going out into the sun, although it is probably a good idea to apply before going to school in case they forget. Guiding clothing choices is also essential. Vercio advises opting for light-colored, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing that adheres to school dress codes.
By prioritizing hydration, adhering to sun safety practices, and making mindful choices, the collective efforts of parents, schools, and health experts can ensure a safe and comfortable learning environment for students, even during the hottest days of the year.
To learn more about heat safety, talk to a pediatrician.