Friday, June 13, 2008


Keep children safe during heat waves

The scorching heat we experienced over the past few days is predicted to subside by tomorrow. Unfortunately, while this was the first heat wave we’ve seen this season, it won’t be the last – so it’s important to keep safety in mind for children.

At Backus Hospital’s Mary Allen Ross Child Care Center, that’s precisely what they did yesterday.

With temperatures predicted to peak in the mid- to upper-90s and high humidity, child care Director Shirley Sholes decided to shift outside time to 8:30 a.m., instead of the usual 9:45 a.m. Afternoon play outdoors was canceled.

Although this meant coming up with some creative things for the children indoors, it was well worth the sacrifice. Overexposure to heat can be very dangerous to children.

Ms. Sholes said that in addition to the usual hot weather precautions, some parents overlook the importance sending their children to school with a hat or sunglasses. Both can protect children from the summer sun’s potent rays.

Here are some other heat-related tips that are important for adults and children:

 Pay attention to the humidity. It isn’t just the temperature that makes us hot; it’s the level of moisture as well. Meteorologists take this into account when they compute the daily heat index. For example, Monday’s predicted high of 97 degrees felt like 102 degrees if you take into account the humidity.

 As mentioned above, stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible. Strenuous activity outdoors should be limited to the early morning and late evening hours.

 Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.

 Stay hydrated, drinking plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty.

 Eat smaller meals, more often.

 Wear sunscreen -- put it on about a half hour before going out and reapply every couple hours. I cannot stress enough the importance of this.

 Never leave a child inside a car unattended, or with the windows rolled up. Children die each year because of this inexplicable mishap.

With temperatures expected to fall back to near normal later this week, hot weather precautions will not be necessary. But as we New Englanders know, the next summer weather extreme is only a matter of time. Whether it’s a severe thunderstorm, drought or heat wave, it’s always important to be prepared.

Have a fun – and safe – summer.

Ravi Prakash, MD, is a pediatrician on the Backus Hospital Medical Staff with a private practice in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dr. Prakash and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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