Guide to dealing with a heatwave when you have children

More often than not, I’m complaining it’s cold. I live for the sunny, summer weather. But that was before I had children. This was back when I could get a book, cold glass of something alcoholic and just lay on the sun lounger in the garden. Now I have a 4 year old and 12 week old to think of. How do I cope with these sudden heatwave and keep these two little ones safe?

1. Be aware

It may sound obvious to say ‘be aware’ but what I mean is take advantage of things like the Met Office to keep any eye on when heatwave is coming, what time the peak heat will be, the UV ratings etc. This way you can plan when to go out or stay in, when to reapply suncream etc.

Being aware of UV is important as it is one of the leading causes of skin cancers. I myself have had moles removed that have begun to turn towards the cancerous side of things and I can tell you it’s not fun. I imagine full on cancer treatment would be 100% worse

Being aware also means you can make you pack the essentials or stock up from shops before the sun strikes:

2. Find shade or create it yourself

Our garden can get very sunny. It’s fab for drying washing and encouraging plants to grow but challenging to find shady places for the children to play/chill out. We use a gazebo to create a shady place to play and before we ‘borrowed’ this from my parents we created shade using tents (you can get ‘sunshade tents’ which are easy to put up and down). We even created shade by pegging up a bed sheet. It’s amazing how creative you can be. To encourage my eldest to stay in the shade I set up picnics, books, favourite toys etc. Anything to keep him there for a bit.

For my youngest who is still a baby I try to keep him indoors during the hottest times. When I can’t do that then I take his buggy outside…or just the carry cot part. I can place facing away from sun and have the hood bit up to create a shady, soft and safe place to chill out.

3. Have plenty of fluid

This is probably one of the most important things you can do during a heat wave. For children this can be in form of drinks or ice lollies/creams. Even fruit is a good option as it has juice in it. I try to keep drinks in the fridge such as making up a big jug/bottle of squash to top up cup/flask. I also have useable ice cubes that I add to drinks (great as they don’t melt and get smaller so less of a choking hazard).

For older babies who are at weaning age you can buy mesh type food holders and these ‘mini ice lolly’ makers. I used to put banana on them and freeze it, or smoothie type foods (we used dairy free as my son had allergies).

If you have a younger one like my little 12 week old then you have to stick to milk – in which ever form that is. My son is formula fed (in this weather I really wish he’d taken to the boob!). So I have been offering ‘little and often’. This way instead of going 3-4 hourly without fluid he is having opportunity to have it more often but without overfilling him and making him puke on me.

4. Cooling down activities

Running around and climbing on the slide may be fun most other times but in a heatwave it’s just going to make children over heated and extra tired. Instead I’ve Ben setting up activities that are still active but not quite so energetic.

Such as

– Paddling pool (with gazebo over it or sun hat on if no gazebo) with balls in it, pots and pans from the kitchen, plastic play people or bath toys. You can add colour to it or bubble bath. If you have Gelli Baff then why not make a big tub of that to sit in.

– Tray of water/ big bowl of water can be fun if you have got a paddling pool. Give them washing up cloths and they can have fun washing their toys or themselves (why kids find this fun I’ll never know – But ask them to help clean as part of chores and it’s suddenly ‘effort’ haha). Or use add toys and things to fill and empty.

-Activity trays can be full of anything and everything that keeps children occupied. Put in some herbs from the garden (or the shops), Gelli Baff/slime, paint and paper, foam soap, lego/duplo, building blocks and play figures, dinosaurs.

– Blanket and cushions with some books, stickers and paper, colouring in, painting, lego/duplo, play food and pots and pans. If you set these up in the shade then you can enjoy being outside but not overheating.

– Cool mats can be brought from a lot of shops these days. I’ve seen them in pet aisles in B&M and Home Bargains. Take them out to sit on. Also good for indoors too as they are cool but dry.

– Use reuseable ice cubes to play with in a tray. You can use them to build, add animals for a ice party etc. Just be careful that little ones don’t put them in their mouths and watch out that it isn’t so cold that it causes freezer burns on the skin.

5. Get your house cool and ready

In our house we open all the doors and windows to let the air flow through. Then we shut them when at its hottest as it’s just warm air being dragged in. We have a fan which other it drains the electricity it does provide a bit of coolness (just make sure there is nothing that can be blown onto children as they sleep and don’t have it blow directly on them as cooling down too fast can cause problems). Other advice is to shut curtains and blinds when sun is at its hottest to stop the heat getting in. To be honest this has never worked for us but others swear by it.

Something that’s helpful to us is our ‘Gro Egg’. It tells us the temperature in the room and I can then look online at their website to see what my baby should be wearing. My eldest is wearing just a vest and pants to bed at the moment. He can’t sleep without a blanket so he has a thin one that goes over his legs. My baby is wearing just a vest and nappy. If temperature drops in the night then I put his Gro-bag on.

I shut the windows once asleep. Partially for security but also because I worry if my eldest gets up and climbs up to look put the window. Sounds daft but it is part of autism where he has limited danger awareness so if he heard something that got his attention he would go look out the window!

Other advice is to find the coolest room in the house so migrate there. My friend has taken her children to sleep in the living room using the quilts and pillows from sofa as a bed. The children thought it great fun to be ‘camping’ and they all stayed a lot cooler than it would have been in their bedrooms.

6. Have a bath

Having a cool bath before bed can not only cool you down but also gets off the sun creams and sweat that could be making your skin have that extra layer to make you even hotter.

7. Make sure medication is in easy reach

When it’s a heatwave it can play havoc with medical conditions. For asthmatics it’s important to take your inhalers as recommended by your asthma consultant/nurse/GP. Make sure that you have enough to get you through and if not then speak to 111 or your GP straight away to get a prescription.

For those with eczema the hot and sweating may make it worse so cooling down the ‘problem areas’ with a damp cloth, put on your creams etc to lessen the discomfort will help. Sometimes wearing thin, long sleeved T-shirt’s can help especially if the eczema is worse in the ‘creases’ such as elbows.

I also make sure that calpol is at the ready in case the heat does get too much and the children become poorly from it all. This brings me on to number eight…

8. Recognise signs of heat stroke and exhaustion.

Sometimes, no matter what we do the heat can get to us or the children. It best to know what the warning signs are that something more than just being a bit too hot is happening. Heat exhaustion (headache, dizzy, sweating, very thirsty, muscle cramps/pains… check on the nhs website for full list) is not nice but can treated at home.

Heat stroke however is more serious…it may have the same symptoms of heat exhaustion but then develop further with cold skin and no sweating, loss of consciousness, fever (over 38c), fast heartbeat and confusion. If you suspect a child has heat stroke seek medical advice ASAP.

The St John Ambulance service has a great free app that has first aid steps at your finger tips incase anything does go wrong. It’s worth having it on you so you can consult it for advice.

9. Switch bedding to cotton

J sleeps on cotton sheets anyway and I am removing the waterproof layer from under the sheet. Apparently this helps as the sweat ‘pools’ on the waterproof layer and can make children hotter.For F I have changed his sheet in the Next2me cot from the comfy soft sheets to the thin cotton ones. I’m not ready to take off the waterproof layer incase he has a nappy breech.

Having a declutter of the beds so there’s less comforters, teddies, blankets etc to help more air flow around and hopefully keep the children cool.

10. Prep Machine Care

The Tommee Tippee perfect prep machine has a ‘cut off’ of water gets above 24c. This is to stop the bottles being made too hot. To help stop the red light from coming on try the following:

  • Keep water in fridge and add as needed to prep
  • Only add the amount needed for bottle so there is no water left ‘standing’
  • Add ice cubes to the water in prep machine if no cold water in fridge.

They say parents should avoid letting babies cry in this weather as it increases their temperature so keeping an eye on the prep machine means we don’t have too long to wait for bottle so it reduces crying and upset.

Right now I’m writing this from my bed with both boys in the room with me, asleep. The husband has been kicked out to sleep in the eldest child’s bedroom. It’s too hot in J’s room for him to sleep in there and Baby F is in his ‘next to me’ cot with a thin cotton sheet under him rather than his usual fleeced one. I have the fan on and windows open whilst I’m still awake. It’s meant to be hot again tomorrow so I’ll be making sure everything is prepared in the morning ready to deal with the sun whilst still having fun.

What works for you? I’d love to hear your thought in the comments or on social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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