As temperatures rise, pediatric emergency doctor shares heat safety advice

With temperatures climbing, pediatric emergency physician Dr. Christina Johns, a senior medical advisor at the urgent care provider PM Pediatric Care, says now is a good time to limit how much time you and your kids are spending outdoors, especially during the hottest hours of the day around midday.

"If you've got to go out, try to make your outside time early in the morning, or later on in the afternoon," Dr. Johns says.  "Don't put your child in dark-colored clothing.  That absolutely will increase the surface temperature on the skin."

Instead, Johns says, kids should be wearing loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.

Encourage children to take regular water breaks, she says, reminding them not to wait until they feel thirsty to drink water.

By that point, she says, a child may already be overheating.

"I see a lot of children who are dehydrated in the summertime because they're outside, having a great time, and they don't stop to drink as much as they should," Johns says.

Children getting overheated may feel warm to the touch, or their skin may be clammy or flushed.

"If you notice that the inside of their mouth, or their lips seem dry, we call that a little bit tacky, that would be a sign that a child is getting dehydrated, and it may be from heat," Johns says.

Younger children who are overheating may become fussy or restless, or unusually lethargic.

"Certainly, any time a child is not acting themselves or seems confused in any way, who has been outside for a prolonged period, on a hot day, that's a concerning sign," Johns says.  "They need to come in right away and cool down."

If your child is playing an outdoor sport in the summer, talk to their coach about safety precautions.

"Have a conversation with your child's coach to make sure there are frequent water breaks, and make sure that practices aren't happening in the highest heat of the day," Johns says.

Every summer, she says, emergency departments treat children who have been left behind in hot cars, often with devastating consequences.

"And, this happens to responsible parents," Dr. Johns says.  "It doesn't always happen to parents who are neglectful, or who aren't doing a very good job.  When parents are out of their routine, or it is a different type of schedule, that is when this happens."

If you have a child in the back seat, Dr. Johns says, place your purse, wallet or cellphone in the back, right next to their car seat.

"(Do that) So that it's a reminder to you, something so that you don't make a tragic mistake," she says.

If you suspect your child is getting overheated, bring them indoors or into the shade.

Loosen their clothing, take off extra layers, and apply cold, wet towels to their skin to cool them down, Dr. Johns says.

Encourage them to drink water or sip on a sports drink.

If their symptoms are not improving after an hour, or seem to be worsening, seek medical help.