Risks Sweltering Temperatures Pose For Children

Children are particularly vulnerable to heat-related injuries and conditions. As hot temperatures roast the area, the American Red Cross offers tips for keeping kids safe and cool.

While playgrounds provide an outdoor respite for children, playground equipment that has been baking in direct sunlight can be dangerous. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reports of cases where metal, plastic, rubber and other nonmetal surfaces have been associated with thermal burns. The commission even had one report of a second-degree burn being sustained on a 74-degree day.

Children under 2 years old are specifically at risk because their skin is thinner and more fragile, and they may not know to remove their bodies from a surface that is hot. The CPSC urges caregivers to pay close attention to uncoated metal equipment; metal equipment where the heat-reducing coating has rubbed off; equipment children may sit on; dark-colored plastics and rubbers, especially the surfacing under and around the playground; and asphalt and concrete surfaces.

The CPSC Fact Sheet on Burn Safety Awareness on Playgrounds recommends that adults:

Be aware of the sun and weather conditions, and do not assume that equipment is safe because the air temperature is not very high.

Check the temperature of the equipment and surfacing before letting children play on the playground.

If it feels hot to an adult’s hand, it may be too hot for a child’s bare skin. Because some materials transfer heat more slowly than others, materials may not feel hot with a quick touch.

Dress children in appropriate clothing for the playground (e.g., shoes, pants).

Playground equipment, as well as playground surfacing, may cause burns.

Always watch children while on the playground.

Children, along with the elderly, sick or overweight, are also more vulnerable to excessive heat. Adults caring for children should pay attention to the heat index as well as the temperature. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined. Exposure to direct sunlight can increase the heat index by as much as 15 degrees.

Other steps adults can take to protect themselves and children during hot days are:

Check local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes. If you do not have air conditioning, choose places you could go to for relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (schools, libraries, theaters, malls). Be aware that people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas. Get trained in First Aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies. Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol. Eat small meals and eat more often. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays. Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day. Postpone outdoor games and activities.

The American Red Cross First Aid App contains information on dealing with heat. The app is free app and available for iPhone and Android smart phone and tablet users in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.

As the mercury climbs, people should also use the Red Cross Heat Wave Safety checklist to care for themselves and those around them.