Health Partner

As the long summer holidays begin, kids are going to get dirty and reckless on the playground. Here’s what you can do as a parent to keep them from falling sick while they have fun.

Summer safety for kids How to stay healthy while having fun a paediatrician explains
Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 11:27


Cities in south India are bracing for a tough summer. A heat-wave warning has been issued in Chennai, and the temperature has breached the 40-degree Celsius mark in Hyderabad. Residents of the otherwise ‘pleasant’ Bengaluru have also been told to expect a harsher summer. Apart from the heat, cities like Chennai are also facing water-shortage due to poor monsoons. So, the coming months are going to be hotter, drier and tougher to handle. But that won’t stop your kids from having fun.

With schools shut and parents at work for most of the day, summers can be an adventure for the kids, but this is also the time when children take the most risks, and due to reduced supervision, tend to fall sick. Here’s our primer, with inputs from Dr Radha Rajagopalan, Senior Consultant in Paediatrics at Apollo Hospitals, on how parents can keep their kids safe and healthy while they have fun.

The basics: Lots of water, less heat  

You’ve heard enough of this, but it cannot be emphasised enough. Kids have to drink enough water, and at regular intervals. Water consumption has to happen throughout the day in small quantities, so they don’t get dehydrated. When it’s too hot and kids are expending too much energy, lack of water in the body can lead to severe complications.

Clean water is very important. Kids tend to drink water from anywhere when they are playing. They should be given a bottle of water to drink from,” Dr Radha says, “They can get diarrhoea from contamination of water, or anything else for that matter, and that leads to further complications including dehydration.”

To be protected from the heat, kids should stay indoors during the afternoons. Some sunlight is good, but overexposure can cause heat strokes. “They should wear light cotton clothes which are as free and exposed as possible and not cover their body fully,” she says. Sunscreens can be used in mild quantities if they are stepping out during the day.

Sweating and temperature control

Kids sweat a lot during the summers, and it is natural and good for the body. “It is physiological and the way in which the body regulates its temperature. But the key thing is, sweat has to evaporate. That is when the body temperature comes down,” the doctor explains.

We tend to wipe the sweat away with towels or rush into an air-conditioned room after sweating. This has to be avoided. “They should sit under a shade or a fan for some time after sweating and cool down, and then head for a shower,” the doctor says.

“Even if not sweating, a sudden blast of AC can affect kids’ tender mucosa and lead to irritation. They should wash their face with warm water, or drink a bit of warm water to prevent that,” Dr Radha adds.

Families often take vacations to colder places during the summer, and the sudden change in temperature can affect health. “We have had children who got pneumonia because of this. Children should not be exposed to the cold suddenly. During the holiday, they must wear warm clothes and have warm water,” she says.

Clean body, healthy body

Lack of personal hygiene in kids is one of the most common reasons why they fall ill, and parents have to be very careful about cleanliness, says Dr Radha.

Kids must take a shower at least twice a day. Clothes must be changed at least twice a day.

Taking a shower is important even if kids don’t seem dirty. “We normally have staphylococci bacteria on our body. We have to wash them off, or it can go inside the skin,” Dr Radha points out, explaining why washing regularly during the day is important even if the skin isn’t visibly dirty. “There are also the ‘coagulase positive’ types of staphylococci which are more dangerous, they are pathogens. Not everyone tends to have it on their skin, but if they do and they don’t take care, they can fall ill.”

Is it ok for kids to play with mud and water on the playground? “It is certainly not advisable. You never know what germs they can pick up from the mud. But we can’t stop kids from being kids, so the least we can do is to make sure they clean up after,” the doctor warns.

Children go swimming a lot more during this season. Parents should ensure that the pool is clean and that the water doesn’t have too much chlorine. “We may not have complete control over it but we should monitor it. Sometimes there is too much chlorine, and it will irritate the eye and skin, we see a lot of such cases. They can also drink the water and get gastroenteritis,” Dr Radha says, and adds that children must take a thorough shower with soap before and after the swim.

What to eat, when to eat

Breakfast truly is the king, especially if your child is not a healthy eater. “Children tend to have poor food intake during summers. So, breakfast should be a good meal, which is nutritious and filling,” Dr Radha says.

Lunch should be something which cools the body. “Curd rice, or salad with vegetables like cucumber. A fruit bowl with whatever fruits you can cut then and there, and eat. Watermelon is very good,” she adds.

Avoid oily and spicy food. Meat intake should be kept to the minimum. Packaged soft-drinks or aerated drinks are not a substitute for fresh fruit juices, they have too much sugar and must be avoided. Junk food must be avoided entirely.

If you are traveling with kids, ask your family doctor for a list of medicines you can take along. Do not self-medicate, always consult a doctor. However, the following can come in handy:

  • Oral Rehydration Solution 
  • Anti-diarrhoeal
  • Antacid
  • Antihistamine
  • Cough drops, suppressants
  • Motion-sickness medicines
  • Pain and fever medicines – paracetamol, aspirin etc.
  • Anti-fungal, antibacterial ointments

This article was created by TNM Marquee in association with Apollo Hospitals.