As the days get warmer it is important to remember that fun in the sun can have its risks.
Hotter days are approaching so it’s important to refresh our understanding of sun safety.
Children and babies are more vulnerable to the effects of heat but there are lots of ways we can make sure that the summertime is safe and fun for everyone. And remember a baby can’t tell you if they feel hot or uncomfortable so it’s extra important to try and keep them cool during hot weather.
Hot weather and your health
There are lots of ways that the hot weather can impact our health. Our bodies like to have an internal temperature of approximately 37°C it has to work harder to maintain this when it’s hot out. This is why we sweat, to help us cool down, our heart rate also increases as the body works harder to remain cool.
You can keep track of the upcoming temperature online, when it gets really warm the government puts warnings in place telling us the risks connected to the weather. Keep an eye on your local health warnings, online where you check the weather, the alert system is run by UKHSA and offers relevant advice based on conditions in your area.
On hot days people can experience: dizziness from dehydration, nausea, fainting, confusion, muscle cramps, headaches, heavier sweating than usual, tiredness and of course there is a risk of sunburn. More severe reactions to the hot weather include heat rash (also known as prickly heat) and heat stroke.
Sunburn is one of the most obvious ways that we are at risk on hot days. As the sun’s powerful UV rays can be damaging to skin. Even when it doesn’t feel very hot because of a breeze, you can check the UV index for your area on whatever weather website or app you use. When the index is high it is important to remember sun protection.
The most effective form of protection from sunburn is remaining inside or in the shade. We appreciate that this isn’t always possible however so a high SPF sunscreen is important. Especially for children whose skin tends to be more sensitive and susceptible to burns.
It is important that sun cream is liberally applied to all areas that are visible to the sun, and reapplied regularly, not just once in the morning. Keeping skin covered with loose breathable clothes instead of exposed to the sun is also a good idea. A sun hat is also recommended to keep sun off of the face keeping children cool and protecting their face from burns.
In the unfortunate event that you or a child gets sunburnt, sin may feel hot to touch, feel sore and peel after a few days. In worse cases the skin may even blister. There are things you can do to make the healing process faster and ease discomfort caused by burns.
After a sunburn the best thing to do is get out of the sun to stop any further damage. Cool baths and showers can ease the hot feeling of burns as well as the application of after sun creams with soothing and moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera.
If necessary painkillers and anti inflammatories can be used to reduce the discomfort of sunburns. If you have any concerns a pharmacist can give you advice on how to treat a sunburn.
NHS advice states that if a baby or small child has a severe sunburn you should contact a GP or 111.
Another common reaction to the hot weather is heat rash also known as prickly heat. It happens when sweat glands get blocked and inflamed in hot conditions.
This appears as an itchy rash of small spots and blisters often across the face and neck but It can occur across any area of the body. Heat rash is common in young babies as their sweat glands are not fully developed, this often occurs in the nappy area.
Causes of heat rash can be overdressing, the hot weather fever and intense sweating. Sometimes it’s simply a bad reaction to higher temperatures as children are more sensitive to heat. Its prevention is simple: try and keep cool as much as possible. This means playing inside and in shady areas. Wearing light coloured breathable clothes and drinking lots of water.
In the event that a child does get heat rash there are a few things that you can do, mainly try and keep them cool, with air conditioning and fans if possible. Avoid wearing lots of layers over rashes and remove sweaty clothes and nappies (change regularly so as to not create a hot damp environment where rashes can get worse or gain infections).
A lukewarm bath can soothe the itching of heat rash but avoid soap as this can further irritate inflamed skin. It is important to fully dry children after a bath especially skinfolds behind knees and in armpits. If itching becomes an issue pressing a cool damp cloth to affected areas can have a soothing effect.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are what happens when too much time in the sun makes you feel unwell. Heat exhaustion does not usually need medical attention but if it turns into heat stroke it should be treated as a medical emergency.
Heat exhaustion appears as dizziness, feeling tired, headaches, nausea,cramps and excess thirst. People with heat exhaustion may look pale and clammy and sweat more than usual. If someone has these symptoms, move them to a cool place, remove unnecessary or excess clothes and give them a drink. You can also cool their skin with cold compresses under armpits and back of the neck, and spray or sponge cool water on their skin.
If a person still feels unwell after 30 minutes in a cool place they may have heat stroke which is more serious. Call 999 if after 30 cool minutes the person has a fever, feels hot to the touch but isn’t sweating, has a fast heartbeat, is breathing quick shallow breaths, is confused, loses consciousness or has seizures.
This can be prevented by drinking lots of cool drinks especially when active or exercising and wearing light loose clothes. Try to avoid the midday sun and excessive alcohol consumption as well as extreme exercise.
Safe summer fun
Sometimes the best thing to do on a very hot day is to just stay inside!
Open windows on the cooler shady side of the house and keep windows in direct sun closed with light coloured curtains or blinds closed.
Arts and crafts are the perfect activity for a hot day as they are engaging but require minimal physical actions. Why not make the most of the sunlight and create a suncatcher.
A paddling pool in a shady space is also perfect for cooling off little feet.
Indoor activities like cinemas, and arcades are often quiet on sunny days but are a perfect place to escape the summer sun.
Museums tend to be free and indoors making them the perfect place to spend a day away from the summer heat.
Children’s imaginations are amazing, see what games you can come up with together, your living room could become a mini golf course or a spaceship, there’s endless fun to be had indoors.
Children’s charities like ours are committed to keeping children and families safe all year round, even when it is the brightest out. Remember sun fates and top tips to keep cool.