Children are not small adults. It is also evident in the summer heat. Their skin is twice the size of their body mass. This makes them prone to dehydration and gives them enormous exposure to sun and heat.
Two age groups in the population are particularly vulnerable to extreme summer heat: the elderly, as many know; but also the youngest. The reason: the bodies of infants and young children are less able to adapt to high temperatures than those of adults. Your skin is much more sensitive – and at the same time it is approximately twice as large in relation to your body mass. This is why small children, for example, can lose fluid much faster. And the relatively large body surface is also a huge target for temperatures and UV radiation. During a summer heat wave like this, children therefore need special attention – and constant attention.
Sunstroke, heat stroke, sunburn: This can cause heat in children
Children are more likely to develop one of the typical heat emergencies: heatstroke (overheating of the head from prolonged exposure to direct sunlight); for heatstroke (overheating of the whole body, for example because a child is left in a locked car for too long); or heat exhaustion from dehydration (loss of water and electrolytes that is dangerous to your health). Also dangerous: the sun’s UV rays, against which children’s white skin is practically defenseless due to a lack of pigment.
For babies: Check body temperature regularly by feeling
“If the head is red, the baby is sweating, restless or breathing faster, it is time to cool down,” says Düsseldorf pediatrician Hermann Josef Kahl in the current issue of the pharmacy magazine “Baby und Familie” and dabs the forehead with a damp, but not ice-cold cloth, find a place with room temperature and check every five to ten minutes on a hot day to see if the child is very warm”, says pediatrician Kahl.
Six wet diapers a day: a good sign in summer
Like everyone else and despite their small size, babies need more fluids when it’s hot. If necessary, you should feed them more often or give them the bottle with foremilk. In the complementary feeding age, bottle-fed babies can also get a little water on very hot days. It should be six wet nappies a day, so you can be sure that the child gets enough fluids.
Most important rule: Never leave babies alone in the car
The most important rule: Never leave the child alone in the car, not even for a few minutes or with the window open. While driving, the car must not get too cold when the outside temperature is 30 degrees, i.e. it must not be air-conditioned to below 22 degrees. Because babies cool down faster.
Take care of children with (previous) illnesses
Parents of children with acute or chronic illnesses should be especially careful and vigilant. Children with heart, circulatory, respiratory or lung health problems (such as asthma) are particularly sensitive to extreme heat and high ozone levels. Diarrhea and diseases of the nervous system increase the risk of overheating and dehydration.
Why sun protection is so important, especially for babies
The baby’s skin is completely unprotected against the sun’s UV rays. Unlike adults, babies’ skin still lacks the ability to protect itself (pigmentation, stratum corneum). For this reason, the risk of sunburn is particularly high. And: the skin does not forget. According to experts, severe sunburn in childhood increases the risk of skin cancer in adulthood by a factor of two to three.
Because the natural sun protection factor in the skin is still lacking and children cannot yet tolerate sun creams or lotions at this stage, the magazine “Baby und Familie” advises uncompromising care: children in their first year of life should never be in direct sunlight – only in the shade During infancy sunscreen with sun protection factor 50 and mineral filters that reflect UV radiation are recommended.
Tips for heat protection in children
- Keep the rooms cool, ventilate only early in the morning and at night.
- Ask children regularly (every hour during heat waves) to drink a small glass. Low-calorie and sugar-free drinks are preferred.
- Regularly check the skin temperature of infants and young children, cool gently if necessary (lukewarm shower, damp cloths).
- Sick children: Diarrhea dries out the body very quickly. Pay attention to tiredness, fatigue, dry skin and lips. Better to get to the doctor early than late.
- For children with asthma and other chronic diseases, discuss measures with your family doctor.
- Children do not need to stay indoors all day, even during heat waves. Experts advise: Let children play in forests and parks with dense trees, where temperatures are more tolerable and ozone levels are lower.