Stay safe in the summer heat

By Lewis Smith

The Canada Safety Council offers important tips to make sure you and your family stay cool, hydrated and safe this summer

The summer months are usually a welcome reprieve from the harsh Canadian winters, and this year is certainly no exception.


Despite the long wait for warmer months, though, rushing into the sun without a care in the world is not a good idea for you or your children. Take some time to review safety tips and make sure you and your family stay cool, hydrated and safe under the sun this summer.

On the beach

Packing a picnic and going to the beach with the family is a tried and tested summertime outing. It’s fun, relaxing, and a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. Is there anything more relaxing than the waves crashing in on the shore, the feeling of warm sand beneath your toes and the sun beaming down as you’re catching up on some reading?

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re lounging on a beach, which can lead to more exposure to the sun than anticipated. This can lead to heat stress, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke. You can avoid these illnesses at all cost by being prepared.

A wide-brimmed hat made of breathable fabric is an invaluable help. It provides constant shade wherever you go and keeps the sun from beaming directly down on you. Get one for yourself and one for your children to wear when the sun is strong.

Loose-fitting clothes can also make a difference, because they keep the sun off your skin without causing the additional sweat and discomfort that comes with tight-fitting clothing. Light-coloured clothes are also a very safe bet. Since they don’t tend to retain heat to the same degree that dark-coloured clothes do, it’s smart to keep them at the forefront of your mind when dressing for a day out on the sand.

And of course, sunscreen is always a great idea to keep your skin healthy and to ward off skin cancer.

At the park

The sun and heat don’t discriminate based on location, so many of the tips recommended for the beach apply here. But when it comes to the park, there’s often a lot less lounging and relaxation and a lot more playing around. 

Maybe you’re playing Frisbee with your kids, engaging in a rigorous game of tag or just out walking the dog. Whatever the case, any kind of exercise in the heat makes it that much more important to remain properly hydrated.

Water should be your best friend. Drink plenty of it throughout the day — at least eight ounces every hour — to replenish the water your body loses through perspiration. 

Staying hydrated doesn’t have to be solely about constantly drinking H2O, either. Bring snacks like cucumber slices or watermelon wedges to the park. They are very high in water content and may be more interesting to your child.

You can put the odds on your side by planning activities either early in the morning or evening to avoid the peak hours of the day for heat. Taking regular breaks and staying in the shade as much as possible will also help ensure your family’s trip to the park stays fun, safe and free of heat-related illnesses.

In the car

A prevalent problem that comes up over and over again is small children being left in locked cars on hot days. Every summer, it seems that two or three of the tragically avoidable deaths make their way to the media forefront.

Although the numbers aren’t tracked in Canada because the incidents are underreported, an average of four to six Canadian children die every year because of heat-related car incidents.

Young children are more at risk than adults because their systems are not yet fully developed and unlike adults, they don’t sweat. This makes their body temperature increase without their body automatically cooling them down.

Sealed, locked vehicles with the windows rolled up can act like a pressure cooker in the summer, and it doesn’t even have to be a particularly hot day for the car to become hazardously hot. 

One of the biggest factors in the spike in temperature comes from the colour of the car’s interior — the darker it is, the quicker it will heat up. Add to that the greenhouse effect caused by the sun reflecting off the windows, and it creates a perfect opportunity for disaster to strike.

These deaths aren’t typically malicious, either. Usually they come from a deviation in the driver’s routine. A sudden stop at a corner store, a need to stop for gas or an unexpected detour could all cause a parent to forget their child in the car, or to think they’ll only be gone for a minute. But that’s where the problem
lies: anything can happen in the span of a minute.

The easiest and best solution to this problem is simply to not leave your child in a locked car at any point. Even if it’s inconvenient to bring your young child into the corner store or gas station, it’s even less convenient to have them suffer a heat stroke.

Summer heat is always welcomed with open arms after the last of the snow melts away, but as with most things, moderation is the key. Take preventative measures such as wearing sunscreen, loose-fitting clothes and wide-brimmed hats.

Stay hydrated, don’t overexert yourself, and never leave your child in a locked car alone for even a minute. Follow all these tips and you’ll be sure to have a safe and pleasant summer with your loved ones. 

Photo: Billie MacDonald