How Hot Is Too Hot for Your Kids to Play Outside?

Katie Smith

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Now that summer is officially here and we’re all itching to burst out of our homes (maybe amplified by quarantine), most of us want to get outside and enjoy the sweet heat and the bright sunny days. Many of us want to be outside and enjoy the beautiful weather while it lasts — especially if you braved a particularly cold, icy or rainy winter or spring. However, it important to remember our children can and do get very hot in a short amount of time, especially when they run around and play. But how hot is too hot for a day at the park or on the lawn?

To find out, we spoke with some doctors about when it’s too hot for our kids to be outside in the summer months, what we can do to protect them before going out in the warm weather and signs to look for if we think kids might be getting overheated. So grab your hydration method of choice, your favorite SPF sunscreen and your sun hat and read on for prepping a safe summer day outside.

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It varies depending on your child’s activity level

Activity level plays a huge factor, Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SheKnows. If it’s 100 degrees and your kids are swimming, playing with water toys and in the shade, going outside is perfectly fine if you are keeping a close eye on them. However, If they are running around in direct sunlight, a lot of kids will overheat — even if the temperature is just in the 80s, says Posner.

A good rule of thumb is, “If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your kids,” Dr. S. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SheKnows.

Pay attention to the heat index

Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator for ConsumerSafety.org, says you shouldn’t just pay attention to the temperature on the thermometer. Make sure to keep an eye on the humidity by looking at the heat index factor too.

“When the heat index is 100 degrees or more (over 90 degrees with 60 percent humidity), heat exhaustion is much more probable without safety measures taken,” Hoff tells SheKnows.

Age does matter

Younger children are more susceptible to heat exhaustion because “they produce less sweat” and “are less likely to feel and understand the dangers of extreme heat,” Hoff says.

Never skimp on water, shade or sunscreen

One of the most important things to remember is to keep your kids out of direct sunlight for long periods of time in the summer. They need shade, plenty of water and sunscreen whenever they are outside, Ganjian says. He also recommends dressing your children in light, long-sleeve clothing and always applying a safe sunscreen on children over 6-moths old (and then reapplying it every two hours and after water play). For babies under 6 months, Ganjian says they should avoid sun exposure all together.

Warning signs to look for

Posner and Ganjian both say to pay attention to the warning signs of overheating, which include fever, decreased number of wet diapers, cranky behavior or being overly tired. If you notice these symptoms, they suggest a lukewarm bath, plenty of fluids and a call to your pediatrician.

There is a lot to enjoy outdoors during the summer months, but it’s best to take the necessary precautions to make sure you and your family stay safe.

A version of this story was published July 2018.

Do not forget your kid’s SPF this summer (or, like, ever): 

Launch Gallery: This Year's Best Sunscreens for Kids Will Keep Them Safe on the Sunniest Days

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