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Keeping kids safe in extreme heat

Last Modified: July 28, 2023

Safety & Prevention


Most parents and caregivers love to get outside with their children during the warmer months, but too much summer sun and heat can cause some safety concerns. With extreme temperatures moving into our region, we took pointers from Thomas E Gutwein, MD, Emergency Medicine, and Tony GiaQuinta, MD, PPG – Pediatrics, in regard to keeping little ones protected during the steamiest of days.

General heat safety tips

When planning to be outdoors on hot days, it’s important to be cautious about the threats that accompany extreme conditions. Follow this guidance for everyone in the home, but particularly the elderly and small children:

  • When the heat index is greater than 90°F, avoid spending long periods of time outside without breaks in the shade. Aim for increments of 30 minutes outside at a time.
  • Wear breathable fabrics, like cotton or linen.
  • If babywearing, remember that your wrap or carrier acts like a layer of clothing for baby. Dress them appropriately for the weather and use carriers in moderation.
  • Use fans, shade and the open air to cool off. Avoid enclosed spaces like cars, as these can quickly heat to dangerous temperatures.
  • Maintain hydration. Make sure your children are drinking plenty of fluids. For babies under six months of age, breastmilk or formula supply all the hydration they need. Children over six months can have supplemental fluids, like Pedialyte®, if needed.
  • Talk to your adolescents about heat illness and how to stay safe during summer sports practices.

Playground safety

A trip to a playground is a great way to keep kids active, but on days with extreme heat, playground equipment and surfaces can quickly become dangerously hot. Young children can have a hard time recognizing what is too hot to touch, and children under the age of two don’t even have the awareness to remove themselves from scalding surfaces. Here are some recommendations for staying safe at the playground:

  • Keep children’s feet covered. If at a splashpad, have children wear water shoes.
  • Stay off surfaces that are more than 120°F.
  • Touch surfaces yourself first to test the temperature, especially before setting down a child under two.
  • Put off going outside or to the playground on days over 90°F.
  • If you are outside on days of extreme heat, stay hydrated and seek shade whenever possible.

Know the signs of heat illness

Keep a close eye on children playing outside during days of extreme heat and watch them for signs of heat illness, including:

  • Skin that’s hot to the touch
  • Lethargy or a decrease in normal activity level
  • Vomiting

If your child is experiencing these symptoms, taking them in the air conditioning can help their body naturally recover. Call your doctor if your child’s body temperature is greater than 104°F.


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