Dr. Sharon Okanko l August 7, 2023
Sacramento, Calif. – Back to school is near and as families gather essentials for the new year, heat preparedness must remain top of mind. Ensuring the safety of our children during extreme heat events is critical to their well-being and educational success. It is crucial that we all—parents, caregivers, and educators—work together to accomplish this task.
Children are one of the groups at greatest risk of heat illness, including kids with disabilities or those with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes, so it is important to take extra precautions to protect them during extreme heat. California’s Heat Ready CA campaign encourages California residents to be proactive in safeguarding children from the effects of rising temperatures and raises awareness about the dangers of extreme heat, especially within heat-vulnerable communities like our Black and African American communities.
“As a doctor and mother, I understand how vital it is that we prioritize our children’s safety during extreme heat. Their bodies are more sensitive to high temperatures, and simple steps can make a big difference in preventing heat-related issues,” said Dr. Sharon K. Okonkwo-Holmes, a family practice physician with Kaiser Permanente Southern California, and an instructor at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in Pasadena. “Heat Ready CA offers simple yet essential tips and resources for parents and caregivers to create a safer environment for children as they head back to school, allowing them to focus on learning and play without worry.”
Heat Ready CA is demonstrating its dedication to promoting community health and safety by sharing five tips for parents and guardians to implement and help protect children during extreme heat as they return to school.
- Apply Sunscreen and Drink Water: Shield children’s skin from harmful UV rays and prevent heat rashes and sunburns by applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Encourage children to stay hydrated, and not wait until they’re thirsty. Kids should avoid consuming beverages with caffeine or high amounts of sugar to prevent becoming further dehydrated.
- Dress for the Heat: Keep kids cool and comfy by dressing them in light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting, and breathable clothes. Children do not sweat like adults do, reducing their ability to cool down on their own. Teachers and yard duties should help by paying special attention to their face and body language.
- Limit Outdoor Activities: Consider talking to your child’s teacher about minimizing outdoor activities and encourage kids to play indoors or in shaded areas during extreme heat, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Children will need frequent breaks to rest and cool off throughout the day.
- Educate Kids on Heat Safety: Teach children how to spot symptoms of heat illness and encourage them to seek help if they or their friends experience heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting or dizziness.
- Plan Errands with Children in Mind: Never leave children alone in a parked car—even for a quick errand! Temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees in 10 minutes, even with a window cracked open or when temperatures feel milder outside.
As we gear up for the new school year, let’s confidently handle hot weather and shield our children from the worst effects of extreme heat by remembering and applying these tips. We can create a nurturing and protective environment for our youth by proactively educating them about the dangers of extreme heat and teaching them how to stay safer. For more information about heat safety for vulnerable populations and resources, or to create an extreme heat plan, go to HeatReadyCA.com.
About Heat Ready CA
Heat Ready CA is a multi-ethnic public education campaign led by the Office of Community Partnerships and Strategic Communications. It aims to educate Californians about the potential dangers of extreme heat, how to stay safer and what to do if they suspect they are experiencing heat illness. The campaign engages media, meteorologists, and influencers, collaborating with trusted, community-based organizations and statewide partners to reach vulnerable populations. With agency partners including the California Office of Emergency Services, CalEPA, and the California Department of Public Health, Heat Ready CA is part of the state’s comprehensive commitment to ensuring Californians’ safety during the summer and supporting at-risk communities during extreme heat events. For more tips and resources, please visit HeatReadyCA.com or CuidateDelCalorCA.com.