Public Health England has published advice for early years settings about the effect of heat on young children, as a heatwave is set to hit the UK in the next few days.
Children are particularly at risk as they cannot control their body temperature as efficiently as adults – due to not sweating as much.
Dr Paul Cosford, director for Health Protection at Public Health England, said, ‘While many people enjoy hot weather, high temperatures can be dangerous, especially for people who may be particularly vulnerable such as older people, young children and those with serious illnesses.’
The Met Office has forecast potential heatwave conditions for all parts of England except the north east, and has declared a level 2 heat-health alert (when the Met Office forecasts that there is a 60 per cent chance of temperatures being high enough on at least two consecutive days to have significant effects on health.)
Temperatures are expected to reach up to 35C in some areas on Wednesday.
Nurseries have been advised to provide children with plenty of water, and avoid physical activities on very hot days to minimise the risks of heat stress, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Roseacre Playgroup Shepperton Nursery in Surrey told Nursery World they have planned to have spots filled with water for children to be able to paddle their feet during activities.
Deputy manager Lynda Carter added, ‘There will be plenty of drinking water available for children and staff to access throughout the session, maybe some cooling ice pops.’
According to Public Health England, the main risk from heat is dehydration, but children are unlikely to be adversely affected by hot conditions if sensible precautions are taken.
One twitter user, @WobblyJellyBlog, suggested popping baby wipes in the freezer for a ‘refreshing cool down day or night.’
The National Day Nurseries Association added that all nurseries and anyone working with young children should be ‘extra careful’ over the next few days.
NDNA lead early years adviser Jo Baranek said, ‘Although it is lovely to have some sunny days, the heat itself can cause many problems particularly for young children and can exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma.
‘Learning about being safe in the sun is an important life lesson. Make sure you lead by example so the children see adults enjoying the sun but being safe in hot weather.’
Here are Jo’s top tips for protecting children during the heatwave:
- Don’t let children outside during the hottest hours (11am-3pm) unless they are totally shaded and during the rest of the day, don’t let them stay out for long periods of time
- When they do go out on a hot day, reduce the level of activity – maybe have storytime or quieter activities such as creative, sand or water play
- Keep lots of fresh cool water available for children who can self serve, not left out in the sun, ideally with lots of ice cubes to keep it cool. Give them gentle reminders – ‘Have you had a drink recently?’
- For younger ones, keep offering them drinks throughout the day
- Make sure staff drink plenty of fluids in front of the children to reinforce this behaviour
- Make sure the children and staff are all wearing their sun hats and sun cream – encourage the older ones to put it on themselves under supervision. Explain why this is important.
- Recommend the use of wide brimmed sun hats and loose fitting clothing to parents for the children.
- Do take babies outdoors but keep them in the shade – however, don’t sit them on the floor if it’s too hot to hold the back of your hand there for longer than 5 seconds.
- Pushchairs if left outside in the sun can also get very hot – keep them indoors or in the shade when not being used.
- Try to keep your nursery as cool as possible, using ventilation, fans, draw the curtains against the strong sun if possible.
- Remember some of your children with SEND may be more at risk during the hot days.
- If any of your children are behaving differently to normal, or become floppy or unusually tired, then cool them down with wet flannels, cold water, drinks and fans. If you have any concerns contact a health professional.
Read PHE's factsheet here
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