Summer can be a lovely time of year packed with outdoor events, parties, weddings, and so on. However, if you are attending a busy social occasion with young children, it can be difficult to juggle keeping an eye on them and socialising with the adult guests.
This situation is even more challenging when the sun is blazing down, and the event is in full swing. While being bathed in warm sunshine is very pleasant and relaxing, unfortunately it can also present some serious health risks, especially to young children.
With UK summers breaking high temperature records every year, it’s as well to be prepared and plan ahead for a hot day. Babies and children are more vulnerable than adults to sunburn because of their more delicate skin. They are also more susceptible to heat rash and heatstroke, because their bodies are less able to regulate temperature.
Sunburn in the early years of life can lead to premature aging and even skin cancer, so it is very important to keep babies in the shade at all times. Attach a canopy to their pram or push chair, and protect their scalp with a bonnet. Find a nice shady spot under a tree or umbrella to prevent them from overheating.
For slightly older children, try to avoid exposing them to direct sunlight when the sun is at its most powerful, between 11am and 3pm. When choosing children’s clothes, look for special sun-protective garments, as ordinary clothes may be too loose-weave to give enough protection.
Keep vulnerable areas such as the shoulders and arms covered with a long-sleeved t-shirt, or a light cardigan. Loose-fitting, light-coloured clothes are best for hot days. Always make sure children wear a wide-brimmed hat in sunny weather, which has a skirt at the back and sides to protect the neck.
Applying liberal doses of sunscreen is also extremely important, even if the weather is cloudy. Choose a product with a high SPF factor of between 30 and 50, and apply it at least 20 minutes before they go out in the sun. Make sure it is reapplied if the child gets wet, or very hot and sweaty, or if it becomes rubbed off on a blanket or seat.
If you have to make a long journey to an event, try and make it early in the day. Never leave children alone in a hot car, even if you are just popping into a shop, as they are far more prone to overheating than adults.
Signs of heatstroke in children include a headache, dizziness, nausea, sweating, cramps, rapid breathing, a fast pulse, a temperature of 38c or above, and excessive thirst. They may also seem floppy and sleepy.
If you suspect your child has heatstroke, move them to a cool place straight away. Give them plenty of water, and sponge then down with cold water. Make sure they lie down with their feet slightly raised. If after 30 minutes they are failing to cool down or become unresponsive, seek emergency medical assistance.
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