Summers are getting hotter in the UK, with temperatures regularly hitting highs of 30°C and above. And while that’s great news for children enjoying their six-week break and hoping for a few days at the beach, it does come with health implications that can’t be ignored.
Children can be very vulnerable to the heat, and are more likely to suffer from dehydration, sunstroke or sunburn when exposed to the hot weather over long periods. As a foster carer, it’s your responsibility to make sure children in your care are protected from the sun’s harmful rays, and that they drink plenty of water to keep them safe and healthy when out enjoying the fine weather.
In this guide, we look at practical ways you can help a child beat the heat, including advice on how to get them drinking more water and tips on encouraging them to wear sunscreen.
1. Choose the Right Sunscreen
No one really enjoys putting sunscreen on, but it’s essential when it’s this hot. But, if you often struggle to get your foster child to put sunscreen on before they head outside, you could be buying the wrong stuff.
Standard sunscreen can be tough on children’s sensitive skin, as well as difficult to apply. Creams made specifically for children are kinder and gentler, and offer maximum protection against harmful UV. And, if they need an incentive, many are also brightly coloured or sweetly scented, which may encourage them to start slapping it on more regularly.
2. Make Sure They Have the Right Clothing
If your foster child is still a relatively new addition to your family, they may lack summer-friendly clothes that are comfortable in the extreme summer heat. Through no fault of their own, foster children can often arrive at your door with an inadequate or inappropriate wardrobe, so it may be a good idea to take them clothes shopping for the warmer weather.
Of course, shorts and t-shirts are preferable in the heat, but it is also worth thinking about what they’re made from. Some fabrics are much cooler and will draw sweat from the skin, helping children stay cool and comfortable.
3. Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness
Hot weather and overexposure to the sun can cause all sorts of problems for children, and the symptoms of some heat-related illnesses can be tricky to spot. Here, we list some of the tell-tale signs of a more serious problem:
- Weakness and chills
- Incoherent speech
- Hot and cold skin feel
If a child complains about any of these, it’s a good idea to have them cool off in a shady spot and drink plenty of water. You can reduce the risk of heat stroke and exhaustion by limiting their time in direct sunlight.
4. Help them Enjoy a Good Night’s Sleep in the Heat
One of the most annoying knock-on effects of hot weather is restless sleep, which happens when our bodies just can’t cool down. There are a few things you can do to help your foster child stay cool and comfortable enough to get enough sleep whatever the weather.
A 4-tog quilt is ideal in warm weather, and a fan for their bedroom could be a great idea. Or perhaps, take a more novel approach. Chilling socks in the freezer and having them put them on before bed will help lower their body temperature, and you can do the same for their pillowcases. This might sound a little mad, but we promise, it works.
Some children love charging around during the summer holidays and would probably do it all day long if they could. And while we’re not suggesting you should in any way limit how much exercise they get, it’s worth being mindful of their physical activity and try to make sure they aren’t getting worn out by the weather.
Even if your foster child can kick a football around for hours on end without ever tiring, they may need a little more rest from activity when the weather is warm. It is vital that they’re replacing fluids lost through sweat regularly, otherwise, they could easily succumb to heat exhaustion. This is especially important between noon and 4pm, when the day is at its hottest.
6. Encourage Them to Drink Water
We know that some children aren’t too keen on drinking water – and would prefer a glass of pop or juice instead.
If your foster child often refuses to drink water, try to discourage them from drinking a fizzy, sugary drink instead; this will only serve to dehydrate them further. Instead, add a little squash to a glass of water to give it some taste and colour, or better yet, incentivise them to drink the good stuff. There are now lots of water bottles out there that encourage you to drink water, and can help your foster child track how much they’ve drunk. We really like this one, which records their water consumption and gives you the option to add some healthy fruits to the mix.
Many children love to splash around in their own garden, and an inflatable pool will serve as the ultimate distraction when it’s baking hot and you’ve run out of ideas on how to keep them occupied through the long summer break. Plus, filling the pool with cold water will help them cool off when the heat gets too much, making it the perfect antidote to heat exhaustion.
There are hundreds of paddling pools out there, ranging massively in size and price, but make sure you choose one that’s suitable for your foster child’s age group. Also, it’s important that young children are never left unsupervised in a paddling pool, and that their sunscreen is regularly reapplied.
8. Tips When Travelling Abroad with Children in the Summer
Summer’s aren’t just getting hotter here in the UK, but across Europe and the Mediterranean, too. That means it’s important to take extra care when holidaying in hot climates with your foster children, as the intense heat overseas can be even more dangerous than it is at home.
Here are our top tips on keeping the children safe from the heat when travelling abroad:
- Have them wear a sun hat.
- Use 50 SPF sunblock for complete UV protection, and reapply regularly.
- Carry bug spray to protect them from dangerous bites.
- Buy bottled water, as drinking local water can lead to a bad tummy.
- Leave the air con on in your hotel room so you have a cool place to return to – great in emergencies when you need to cool them down quickly.
- Buy portable fans for your foster children so they can stay cool when they’re out and about. These can be particularly useful during hot transfers to and from the airport.
So there you have it, our top tips and advice on helping your foster child beat the heat this summer. Have you got any other helpful hints and tips you’d like to share on caring for foster children through the summer? If so, we’d love to hear from you, so drop us a message on our Facebook page.
Think you have what it takes to foster? We can start you on what promises to be an unforgettable and rewarding journey. To find out about getting into fostering, click here to visit our homepage or call us today on 0800 044 3030.