How to Beat the Back-to-School Heat
Here's how you can make sure your kids are cool, hydrated, and healthy at school during this seasonal transition.
It seems like every year, the first day of school is hotter than the first day of summer camp. Blame it on early June releases or climate change, but so many schools aren’t equipped to deal with hundreds of returning students PLUS incredibly hot temperatures. But here we are, week one of school in many places with temperatures where I live reaching 100 degrees — with a real feel of close to 112. Not exactly ideal recess weather.
Jennifer Mitzman, MD, FACEP is the Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and she shared her tips for making sure your kids stay safe and healthy amidst a heat wave!
What can we do to best prepare our kids if it's going to be extremely hot outside once they start school?
- Dress your students in lightweight, lighter colored clothing that is loose fitting as this will help the heat to evaporate more easily.
- Hats may help some students but not all. While they provide some shade to the face and eyes, they can limit evaporation from the scalp. A visor rather than a hat that covers the head is a good choice for children with longer hair.
- Apply sunscreen before they leave for the school day.
- Ensure that children have water with them at all times. Encourage them to drink frequently, avoid sugary drinks, and not to wait until they are thirsty as that is a sign they are already behind on fluids.
- Make sure that your children tell a grown-up if they start to feel sick.
What should we make sure our schools are doing?
It is important for schools to partner with families to keep children safe from extreme heat.
- They should be allowed to have access to water at all times, even in the classroom, and not just limited to breaks or lunch.
- Allow children to wear lightweight, light colored and looser fitting clothing. For schools with a uniform code this may mean allowing shorts or swapping out that navy polo for a light t-shirt.
- Movement at recess and in gym class is important for young minds and bodies.
- Consider if there are ways to modify the schedule so that children are outside earlier in the day before it is so hot. Allow children to take rests when needed and encourage extra water breaks. Use indoor spaces if the heat is extreme rather than outdoor activities.
- Adults should know the signs of heat related illness and watch for them closely.
What are the warning signs to look out for in the extreme heat?
There are many signs of heat exhaustion. Patients may be sweaty initially but can also become cold, pale or clammy if their body is having difficulty regulating their temperature.
Nausea, vomiting, heading or cramps are signs to get out of the heat immediately and cool off. If this happens, move to a cool place, loosen or remove extra clothing, sip small frequent amounts of water.
More severe signs include hot, red, dry skin without sweating, elevated body temperature or fever, confusion, or fainting. If a student or staff member is experiencing these symptoms, the school should call 911 immediately.
How long is too long in extreme heat before it's not safe?
People can experience symptoms of heat related illness in as little as 15-20 minutes when temperatures are in the triple digits. Additionally, heat waves are harder on the body than one day of hot temperatures. When temperatures are over 90 caution should be used, and in triple digits it is best to avoid the outdoors as much as possible.
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