The summer holidays are rapidly approaching and once again parents face the challenge of keeping a house full of children happy, healthy and entertained through the hottest weeks of the year. Today we’re taking a look at some of the dangers the heat can bring with it (especially in this new age of Met Office Extreme Heat Warnings), and what you can do to keep your family safe!
One of the biggest risks in the hot weather (especially with children) is dehydration. Your body keeps a reserve of water for lots of important tasks in your body – creating new cells, filling cells, transporting important substances around the body and removing waste. When you’re hot, whether it’s from a heat wave or from exertion you’ll work up a sweat and lose a big proportion of your stored water, leaving your body less to work with. This can even lead to the individual cells of your body shrinking as their water reserves are depleted.
The early symptoms of dehydration can include a sense of thirst, a dry mouth and headaches. They progress to muscle aches, mood swings, confusion and vomiting, and only get worse from there. If you’re wondering ‘how do you test for dehydration?’, a quick way is to pinch the skin on the back of the hand: if it springs quickly back into place then you’re likely at a healthy level of hydration but if it doesn’t, then you may be dehydrated! Your hydration level affects your skin elasticity so this is a useful indicator.
Try to make sure there are drinks available for when people are thirsty to prevent dehydration escalating. To avoid serious problems, keep some rehydration tablets or isotonic sports drinks in the cupboard so if someone does slip into more serious dehydration, you can reverse the situation quickly.
Distinct from dehydration, heat exhaustion (which can progress to heat stroke) is the condition when someone’s core temperature rises to a dangerous level for too long a time.
The signs to look for are a temperature of 38 degrees, excessive sweating and thirst, headaches, vomiting and confusion, and fast breathing or heart beat. If nothing is done, this can turn into heatstroke, which is very serious.
The best thing you can do is try to avoid heat exhaustion altogether: keep lots of cool drinks on hand, keep people out of the sun during the hottest part of the day and avoid extreme physical exertion. If you notice someone suffering from the symptoms above, it’s important to try and cool them down.
Bring them to a cool place – either in the house or in the shade, get them to lie down with their legs slightly elevated, ensure they’re hydrated and use cool water or icepacks (especially around the armpits and groin, where major veins and arteries are near the surface) to cool them down.
If they’re not feeling better and aren’t any cooler after 30 minutes it’s time to call for medical help to get the situation solved and prevent your summer being marred by a trip to hospital.