With temperatures set to soar in the coming days, the DCEDIY has issued some helpful advice on how to keep children protected during the heatwave.
1. Make sure they are drinking enough fluids
• If you are caring for babies under 6 months, offer them their usual milk feeds (breast milk or formula) more often. This will prevent them becoming dehydrated.
• Give older children plenty of cold drinks, especially if they are exercising or playing outside.
• Make sure cold drinks (such as water) are readily available for children, and encourage them to drink. Cold fruit, cold milk and smoothies can be a way of getting fluids into children who are reluctant to drink water.
• Encourage children to eat normally.
2. Ask parents to dress their children in loose clothing
• A sun hat will also protect their child from the sun
• You can sprinkle water over the children’s skin or clothes when they are playing outside to help them stay cool.
3. Keep indoor spaces cool
• Open windows as early as possible before the children arrive to your facility, this will allow stored heat to escape from the building.
• As it gets warmer outside, once the air outside is warmer than the air inside, partially open windows.
• Close the curtains or blinds in indoor spaces during the day to block out the sun but don’t let closed blinds block ventilation.
• Switch off lights, and all electric equipment that you are not using, like laptops and printers.
• Use a room thermometer to ensure that nap rooms or sleep rooms are at the correct temperature. We recommend that rooms in which babies or children sleep are at 16 degrees C to 20 degrees C. Children should not
sleep in direct sunlight.
4. Tips for playing outdoors
• Make sure that children take a break from the heat at times.
• They should relax from time to time in a cool place such as inside, or an area outside that is in the shade.
• Avoid very active or vigorous outdoor play when the temperature is >30⁰C
• You might need to think about changing your usual schedule for outdoor play, to avoid children being outdoors during very hot weather.
• Plastic outdoor equipment like slides and mats can get very hot in the heat, check them before a child uses them as they can cause burns.
5. Protect children’s skin from the sun
• Communicate with all parents and ask them to apply sunscreen to their children before they bring them to your facility. Ask them to send sunscreen with their child in a labelled container.
• Review your facility’s sun policy.
• Children should stay in the shade especially between 11am – 3pm.
• You can use a sun shade on a baby’s pram to protect them, but never cover it completely. Air needs to circulate.
• For older children, keep them in the shade and protect their skin with broad spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. But remember, sunscreen will protect a child’s skin from the sun, but it won’t protect them
from the heat.
6. Never leave children alone in cars or mini-buses
• Never leave children alone in the car for any length of time, no matter how short, even if your car is in the shade.
7. Children with health needs
• If a child in your care has additional health needs or special needs, ask the parents if there are any special recommendations for their child, or if they are more at risk from the heat
8. More information about children’s health
• Check out the HSE website mychild.ie to find out more about the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.