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Beat the Heat

Oh, the doldrums of a hot Summer.

The US – and if the headlines aren’t being exaggerated, the entire world – has been gripped by a series of heatwaves this summer, especially the Southwest. Long-time temperature records have been broken, and millions of families have had to curtail plans for travel, outdoor BBQs, and sports activities in order to cope with the high temperatures.

In my own family, we’ve even canceled trips to the local outdoor swimming pool with both temps and UV Index screeching into the ‘dangerous’ zones for human health. Inner cities in my area have set up “Heat Relief” stations and centers that provide ice water, air-conditioning and a place to lie down to help those who don’t have A/C at home cope, reminiscent of hurricane or disaster relief centers you might see on the news.

Leaving aside whether the recent heatwaves are due to Climate Change caused by human activity or not (a debate I believe is worthwhile and should be considered alive and well), the question still arises: what do I do with my kids now? If the authorities I see on the news are warning against outdoor activity, locking my kids indoors for their own safety (I am getting Covid Pandemic lockdown flashbacks now), what is a Mom to do?

I see two sides of the coin here to help answer the question: First, there is the “grow thicker skin” argument. I was discussing the high temps with a friend of mine recently who grew up in Las Vegas, and she specifically recalls temperatures in the 120 F range. Schools didn’t close, and soccer games weren’t canceled. It was hot, but mom made cold lemonade and we played with the garden hose and on the Slip-n-Slide™ and got sunburned, but we toughed it out.

So, have we all just become a generation of wimps?

On the other hand, medical science has advanced a bit since we were kids, we know more now about the dangers of sun exposure and melanoma, we know more about heatstroke, and asking kids to don football pads for summer scrimmages in 100+ degree weather is dangerous and foolish. In fact, in Georgia, a school district and coaching staff were sued by a group of parents after their kids were asked to run two-a-days and several children allegedly passed out with heat exhaustion.

As usual, the answer probably lies somewhere in between.

For most children and adults, coping with hot temperatures is perfectly within the capabilities of our physiology – there are billions of humans who live in Africa, South America, The Middle East, etc. who don’t have air-conditioning and endure high temperatures all the time. So outdoor activities don’t usually have to be ruled out entirely.

That said, of course we also don’t have to just through caution to the wind. We all know the recipe for successful outdoor activities, too: limit direct sun exposure, wear sunblock and a hat, drink plenty of fluids, take frequent breaks, and refrain from intense or strenuous activities for long periods. This is a great opportunity to help teach your kids and family the concepts of preparedness and adaptation.

Can you still do that nature project where your kids must collect and identify 5 insects? Yes…but they’ll need a hat, canteen, sunblock, and scheduled ‘cool off’ breaks. Can your kids still go to soccer practice? Yes, but bring plenty of water/sports drinks, and a source of shade when they are on the sidelines, plus talk to the coach about frequent breaks, and advise your kids to ask to be taken out for a rest if they start to feel overheated. Oh, and sport-proof sunblock, too! Can I still ask my kids to wash the car or mow the lawn? Absolutely! Just ensure they’re prepared with the stuff you already know will help keep them safe from the heat.

And for those times when braving the heat is just too much or seems too daunting, plan some indoor activities as well. Video games or binge-watching your favorite streaming service will work in a pinch but also plan some other types of activities. I recently had the joy of teaching some of my nieces and nephews the sport of “Paper Football”, and we had paper triangles flying all over the living room for hours. A friend of mine turned to puzzles, and she has a huge 5,000-piece behemoth spread on the dining room table (they’re serving dinner sitting around the TV for the week).

The point is, being on lockdown due to heat is probably overkill. Being prepared to mitigate the heat and ensure healthy outdoor activities is not.

I also like to think of it this way: your kids and family only get a certain number of days of summer together and letting them tick by while your kids sit indoors browsing Tik-Tok or playing video games would be a shame.

Stay cool, moms!

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