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How can you protect your children during heat waves?

4 min read
heat wave

It’s official, we are in another heat wave. Temperatures expected to reach the low 40s C in some areas.

Year over year, we are seeing extreme heat events become more common and severe in British Columbia and across Canada. In fact, the record-breaking heatwave British Columbians experienced in 2021 was among the most extreme since the 1960s. As we look into the future, the annual number of extremely hot days in some parts of Canada are predicted to more than double over the next 30 years.

Now that we are in the throws of summer (holidays) it is crucial to protect yourself and your loved ones from the sun. Forgetting to drink enough water while having fun in the sun can cause many Canadians (including children) to run the risk of heat-related illness, including but not limited to, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Stay safe this summer during extreme heat by taking extra precautions and understanding the symptoms of heat-related illness. 

How can you protect your children during heat waves? - BC Parent Newsmagazine

How to keep cool

Stay hydrated

It might not come as a surprise that according to Health Canada, water is essential to help move nutrients and waste through the body, maintain blood pressure, protect joints and organs, help control body temperature and lower risk of dehydration and heat stroke. 

Plain water can become boring to kids over time. Naturally flavored water with fruit and fresh herbs can help to boost fluid intake in a more exciting way! Consider this guide for daily water intake

Age Daily adequate intake
1-3 years 4 cups, or 32 ounces
4-8 years 5 cups, or 40 ounces
9-13 years 7-8 cups, or 56-64 ounces
14-18 years 8-11 cups, or 64-88 ounces
men, 19 and older 13 cups, or 104 ounces
women, 19 and older 9 cups, or 72 ounces
pregnant women 10 cups, or 80 ounces
breastfeeding women 13 cups, or 104 ounces

Plan ahead

Check the local weather in advance and stay cool indoors when possible. If you must be outside during a heatwave, scout out shaded areas, apply (and re-apply) sunscreen and wear loose fitting clothes. Never leave pets or children unattended in a car.

Try to avoid using the oven or other heat emitting sources when possible. If you or someone in your family is struggling to manage the heat, take a cold shower. 

Avoid exposing your child to extreme heat

Reschedule or find alternatives. Reschedule or plan outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day.

Avoid sun exposure

  • Dress your child in loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made from a breathable fabric.
  • Keep your child in the shade or protected from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed, breathable hat or shade them with an umbrella.
  • Tree-shaded areas could be as much as 5ºC cooler than the surrounding area.
  • Limit your time in the sun.
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that is SPF30 or higher and follow the product instructions.

Heat stroke vs. heat exhaustion

To know how to treat heat stroke and heat exhaustion, you first need to know the different symptoms. 

Heat stroke

  • Seizures 
  • Confusion
  • Body temp greater than 103°F/39°C F with an absence of sweating 

What to do: Call 911 immediately 

Heat exhaustion

  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Headaches 
  • Nausea 
How can you protect your children during heat waves? - BC Parent Newsmagazine

Call 9-1-1

Heat stroke is a medical emergency! If you are caring for a child who has a high body temperature and is unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Stay safe and enjoy your summer

Summer can be a fun and memorable time for families – just don’t let the fun get in the way of keeping hydrated and planning for hot days.

Health Canada would like to give a little reminder to stay safe and keep cool as we head into hot weather over the next week.

Advice and resources for this article were provide by Dr. Michael Flaherty from Massachusetts General Hospital and Health Canada.

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