By Carrie McCahan
No one wants to be the parent who takes away the SuperSoakerzs during an excessive heat warning this summer. Parents who want to keep a cool head just need to be informed. Arizonans are expected to experience record-breaking high temperatures, but a few quick tips can see them safely through August.
There is no hard and fast rule for preventing heat stroke. The risk depends on the activity.
Heat exhaustion vs. stroke
Heat exhaustion symptoms come well before those of heat stroke. They include flushed skin, dizziness, nauseated or irritable behavior. A child may also stop playing or seem lethargic. If parents notice this, they should try to cool their child off with air conditioning and a spray bottle of cool water for 20 minutes before resuming activity. Heat stroke is more severe and may include delirium and vomiting. These symptoms may require emergency care.
Smart sunscreen use
Forty percent of sunscreens recently tested by Consumer Reports were far below their listed SPF protection value. Research your brands before you buy them. The two sunscreens that had a perfect score were Trader Joe’s Spray with an SPF of 50 and La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk lotion with an SPF of 60. For kids, top testers were Coppertone Water Babies, Pure Sun Defense 50 Disney Frozen and Up&Up Kids Stick.
Timing is everything
Peak hours for sun are between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’re only outside for an hour, regular water should keep you properly hydrated. Anything longer than that requires electrolytes. Watered down Gatorade, if you’re concerned about sugar, is just fine.
Lay it on thick
Apply two to three times what you think is a “normal” amount of sunscreen. Don’t pass all the responsibility of protecting your skin to sunscreen. If you can, try sunscreen clothing or hats.
Time outside, even in the pool, should be punctuated by hydration breaks. Every 30 minutes, have your child stop for a drink. Even a few sips can go a long way. Make water breaks more fun by putting berries, cucumber or citrus in it with a splash of soda water.
Popsicles are a summer staple, but try to serve them in moderation. Making your own iced treats can allow you to control the sugar content. There are thousands of recipes online for you to try.
Carrie McCahan is a Certified Family Medicine Physician Assistant at Bayless Primary Care.