We wait so long for the summer to arrive, but it’s not without its dangers—especially in the midst of a heat warning. Keep kids safe and maximize your outdoor playtime with these tips.
The UV Index is a measure of the intensity of the sun’s rays. Environment Canada forecasts the highest level of UV for the day, which you can expect around midday. If the UV Index is between three and five, simply slather on the sunscreen and head outdoors. But if the forecasted UV Index for the day is six or higher, plan your outdoor activities for before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m., as the sun will be less intense. Check The Weather Network (theweathernetwork.com or download the app) for current readings, and be especially careful when the UV Index is eight or higher, as skin can burn very quickly. (Though rare in Canada, a UV Index of 11 or higher can cause skin to burn within minutes!) “Young kids can get bad sunburns before you even realize there’s a problem,” says Michael Dickinson, a paediatrician in Miramichi, NB.
The Air Quality Health Index tells us how much pollution is outside on a scale of one to 10, and is more likely to affect people in large cities, near industry or close to areas prone to forest fires. When pollution is high—at seven or above—young kids and people with asthma or heart conditions should limit strenuous outdoor activity, according to Health Canada. That doesn’t mean you can’t go outside at all—just use Environment Canada’s hourly air quality readings and next-day forecasts to plan. Keep activities low-key and monitor children closely. “If your child is getting tired more easily than normal, or if she’s coughing, wheezing or seems to be working harder to breathe, those are signs of respiratory trouble because of the pollution, and you should bring her indoors,” says Dickinson.
The definition of extreme heat varies by where you live, but generally, a heat warning is issued when it’s deemed the temperature increases the potential for health problems such as heatstroke and dehydration, which can be fatal. All children can be affected by heat, but it’s most dangerous for infants, young children and people with asthma or heart disease, says Dickinson. It’s best to plan a movie day or hit an indoor playground when a heat alert is issued.
In warmer months, trees, grasses and weeds procreate by releasing tiny grains of pollen, which are carried by the wind. The Weather Network tells us how much and what kind of pollen is floating around. Pollen is high on dry, windy days, is released in the morning and typically peaks in urban areas midday. “Pollen counts are particularly important if you’re prone to allergies and asthma,” says Dickinson, so monitor the pollen forecast and plan your outdoor time for when counts are low. If your allergic child will be outdoors when pollen is high, speak to your doctor about giving him an antihistamine before he goes out.