The Hidden Dangers of Family Fun in the Sun

The Hidden Dangers of Family Fun

As parents we do everything we can to keep our children safe and healthy.

But even the parent with the best of intentions or the parent who is very vigilant in keeping their children safe can sometimes not notice everything.

I feel compelled to share my story in hopes of helping others and raise awareness of the dangers that the summer heat can bring.

The weather in Utah where I live has finally reached extremely hot temperatures. For the past few weeks it has been in the high 90s to 100 degrees.  I will acknowledge some places out there get much hotter– but the start of our summer brought mild temperatures so this sudden heat wave we have been having came on quickly and didn’t give us much time to adjust.

My two little girls love to play outside.

They love to zoom their wiggle cars down the driveway at alarmingly fast speeds and  ride their bikes around our cul-de-sac.  They are constantly blowing bubbles, coloring with chalk on the sidewalk, and they live in their swim suits day in and day out. They just love being outside whenever possible.

So, we’ve been doing a lot of it.

A few nights ago I took my girls to a park. My husband had been out of town- so I met up with a friend to kill some time before tackling our bedtime routine. And even though it was after 6 PM, it was still a scorching 101 degrees outside.

I was sure to apply sunscreen on them – as any good mother would – and I was armed with a large  bottle filled with ice water that I made sure they constantly took sips from. My point being- in my mind I felt I was prepared. I had water and I had sunscreen. I mentally checked those two things off my list in my head and felt pretty good about our park outing. However, they still ended the evening red-faced and hot. No amount  of water or sunscreen could avoid that.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and went to swim lessons. But by 9:15 when we made the five-minute walk to their lessons it was already incredibly hot out again.  We went on to spend over an hour outside in the hot sun as each of my daughters took their turn in the pool. Afterward, we went and got bagels with my mother-in-law and then we came home.

Because we went to get bagels straight from their swim lessons, both my daughters were still in their wet swimming suits. Lyla, who is six, was anxious to warm up, so as soon as we got home she ran to her wiggle car and proceeded to sit in the sun, drying off  for over thirty minutes.

She was sitting in the direct sunlight and heat.

I didn’t think twice about it.

We then continued to play outside all morning.

Bike riding, chalk drawing, running and exploring around. You name it- they did it.

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At some point, Lyla laid out on the sidewalk- enjoying the sun beating down on her. She even mentioned how relaxed it made her feel.

I again didn’t think twice about it.

But shortly after that, I noticed she did started to act a little mopey. She told me she felt tired, and she didn’t want to move. Instead of running around and playing she just wanted to sit around and her motivation was completely gone.

When she did get up to walk around, she  moved slowly in a slumped over position. She was not acting like her usual bubbly, outgoing self. I didn’t read too much into it, though. I thought she was just feeling tired, nothing more.

We continued to spend the rest of the afternoon outside. Although we were out of the sun as we lounged on our front porch and relaxed in our hammock under the trees, we were still being exposed to the heat of the day. And it was hot.

By this time Lyla just wanted to snuggle and relax. She was acting a little out of it, as her energy level decreased.

I was enjoying our lazy afternoon and her laid back demeanor that at the time I didn’t even recognize her as being lethargic until later.

I was enjoying our lazy afternoon and her laid back demeanor that at the time I didn't even recognize her as being lethargic until later.Click To Tweet

I do remember pulling out my phone and Googling “heat exhaustion in kids” just to see what it came up with because the thought did come to me, and I began to wonder if there was more to it.

Our friends invited us to go to the local splash pad. I was planning on going, but since we were having such a nice, lazy afternoon– I declined– even though I wrestled back in forth in my head about that decision several times before deciding not to.  I told my kids that we weren’t going to be able to go and Lyla simply told me “oh” and did not seem excited about going anyway. That response is very unlike her because she always jumps at the opportunity to play with friends.

Eventually, I found her on our couch later in the afternoon. She snuggled up against the pillows and began to doze off.

And that’s when something clicked.

I  quickly took her temperature and over the course of a short while I watched as it went from 101 to over 103. She was barely talking to me and she just wanted to close her eyes and go to sleep. She began to tell me that she didn’t feel well.

I started to feel her skin and noticed how hot her body was and how pink her skin was. She was burning up but she was telling me that she was cold and wanted a blanket. Her lips were dry as well.

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That is when mommy panic set in.

I quickly Googled some stuff and became convinced she was experiencing heat stroke- which I read could become serious very quickly– especially with a high fever. I began to text my husband and a close friend to ask for advice.

My friend strongly suggested that I call Lyla’s doctor to talk to a nurse. I agreed and I quickly did so.

It was almost closing time for the doctor’s office, and I could tell the person who answered the phone was ready to be done for the day. When I explained I was concerned about heat exhaustion\stroke the person quickly transferred me to a nurse for which I was grateful.

After describing the situation and the symptoms my daughter was having, the nurse agreed it sounded worrisome.

She advised me to give her a cold bath, and put ice packs on her and to give her Tyelnol. She told me to make sure she was peeing and to watch for nausea, vomiting, confusion and more lethargy from her and that if those things happened I needed to take her to the ER immediately.

That is when I began to freak out.

I am a self-proclaimed over-protective mom. I am what some call a helicopter-parent. I dot my “I’s” and cross  my “t’s” when it comes to my children,  how could I have let this happen?

Thankfully, I was able to stay calm enough to draw her a cold bath. She was crying because lets face it- cold baths  are not fun, but she was so brave! And my heart swelled with love for my little girl as she let me pour cold water on her head and splash cold water on her body over and over again.

We did that for about fifteen minutes and I then had her air dry wearing only undies on the couch. Per her nurse’s suggestion, I put ice packs under her armpits and pointed a fan on her and forced her to drink more water.

And soon, her fever came down.

She began to perk up almost immediately.

After about and hour and a half following the cold tub she was almost 100% back to normal. And it was now glaringly obvious to me how different she was acting earlier versus when she was now feeling better.

Hours later she wrapped her little arms around my waist and told me:

“I feel so much better! I did not like when I felt that way!”

I was left again asking myself how did I not notice the signs?

Why didn’t I realize something was going on with her?

I definitely have mom guilt over not recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion\stroke.

I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t get her temperature down when I did. And I don’t know what would have happened had we ended up going to the splash pad that day, exposing her to more heat and sun.

I had planned on running to the store earlier too, but I just felt like staying home.

I think those were tender mercies for me.

Dragging Lyla out to the busy store, going to the splash pad, and sitting in the car on the way to and from those places could have sent her over the edge. And even though I never had a thought come to me “not” to go– I’m glad that I felt the need to stay home.

I am so grateful that she is feeling better and that it wasn’t worse. I feel so blessed that I took action when I did and that she didn’t start exhibiting scarier signs of heat stroke. I’m grateful for the people around me for helping me stay calm and helping me know what to do.

I will forever be grateful for this experience because I will now  be more observant and vigilant this summer making sure we drink more water and stay out of the sun for long periods of time. And now I will be able to recognize the signs right away, instead of second guessing myself.

I also know that sometimes kids just play hard.

And they get tired. Sometimes they might just want to rest and relax– and that’s okay and that’s normal. But sometimes it might be more.

And I firmly believe parents are gifted with something called instinct and intuition. And it is important to listen to that and trust your gut when it’s telling you something. Whether it is to stay inside on a super hot day, or to take a second glance at your child when they suddenly become ill.

If we needed this little scare to avoid future experiences, then I’m glad for it. And if  sharing my story helps one family avoid devastation, then I’m okay with that, too.

Here is my girl feeling so much better just a few hours later.

I was relieved to see that smile.

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Signs of heat exhaustion in children:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Muscle Pain
  • Unconsciousness
  • Hot, red dry skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing

Signs of Heat Stroke in children:

  • Temperature of 104 and higher
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Disorientation or delirium
  • lack of sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • unconsciousness
  • coma
  • no sweating
  • flushed, hot dry skin



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18 Comments

  • I'm so glad she's ok now! I would have freaked out as well, I probably would have went straight to the hospital instead of being sensible like you and calling a nurse. I'm glad we have that intuition and know when there's something wrong with our kids :)
  • Thank you for sharing. I am over protective as well, and heat exhaustion is not something I would have considered as well. Adding it to my mental list along with dry drowning.
  • As an Arizona Mom, heat and sun are constantly on my mind. I have experienced heat exhaustion and early heat stroke myself. So scary. Which is why I would add to your list of things to prevent heat related emergencies that in extreme temperatures, kids and adults need salty snacks. I know it sounds counter-intuitive. We usually think of salt dehydrating us, and we're supposed to stay hydrated. The thing is, you're not only losing water when you're hot, you are also rapidly losing salt. A condition called hyponatremia can develop when you are replacing water but deficient on salt. It is horrible, scary, and like heat stroke, can turn on you quickly. Keep those salty snacks handy!
  • As an adult who suffered heat stroke as a child - I want to caution you that your sweet girl is likely to be much more susceptible to heat now than she was prior to this experience. My experience was worse than your daughters so hopefully she won't have the long-lasting repercussions that I've dealt with, but as an overprotective Mama myself... :D I wanted to bring it up. Unfortunately my heat stroke happened in 3rd grade at school in south Louisiana when it was blistering hot and super humid and none of the adults knew I was having trouble until I passed out on the playground towards the end of field day. Some other tips to help combat the effects of the sunshine and heat - keep a light colored, light weight hat on when you're outside to help shade from the sun, drink lots of water but also something like Gatorade on occasion too, and have cool snacks - frozen fruit bars, etc... to help cool down the core when it gets hot out! I started getting severe headaches from the heat after I experienced heat stroke too - so the onset of a headache is another clue to me that I need to get cooled off ASAP!
    • I'm so sorry you have experienced something like this. I didn't realize that once you've been through it, you're more likely to have it happen again- but it makes sense! Thank you for sharing those tips, I think all the advice and help we can share is so important!
  • I live just outside Kansas City, Missouri where it is very, VERY hot and terribly humid. Yesterday it was 108 degrees. My kids love to swim in our subdivision pool, my daughter especially, who is six. Yesterday evening she wasn't acting like herself, and I had been ill myself, so much so that my husband who never takes a day off, took the day off to manage our three children. After dinner when my daughter seemed so off and for the third time told me she had a headache and her stomach still hurt and could we just snuggle in Mom's bed, something clicked. I told my husband that she might be getting sick. Then I went and felt her forehead and really looked at her for the first time and saw she was red, and too warm and everything I read here CLICKED. She had a fever, she'd spent a long time at the pool with Daddy and had an hour and a half Gymnastics lesson, time outside in this humidity level and temperature is a lot for children, and she is a pale skinned red head, so that just screamed heat intolerance. I began cooling measures, I already knew what to do, thanks to training to be a Nurse, (which Motherhood circumvented, for the best) but I simply wouldn't have thought of it. I mean, its not that I didn't know it could happen, I DO know, I just thought I had prevented it with all my precautions. I didn't. So here I sit, up in bed, not having slept in 24 hours because I wanted to monitor my beautiful HEALTHY daughter, laying beside me, sleeping away, with no fever and her usual alabaster complexion. Shes FINE, because I read your post. I honestly don't know if I would have thought of it without your story. I'd like to THINK I would have, but I doubt it. So thank you. My husband thanks you. Her brothers thank you. My sleeping daughter doesn't know it, but she thanks you too.
    • Oh my goodness! Your post means so much to me. Thank you for your kind words. I am so glad your daughter is okay and that by reading this article you were able to recognize what was happening! It's crazy how fast it comes on and under what conditions it can happen. Thank YOU for sharing your story as I know it will also help others in the same situation.
      • Thank You! I wanted you to know, even if it was information for some, but for me it was the heads up that may have saved my daughter's life. Today we visited a friend, and she held a baby chick for the first time. We went out to lunch. We went to a lovely cupcake shop and bought several treats and she is currently demolishing one. We checked with her Doctor to be sure there were no lasting effects. Shes wiggling a loose tooth. It sounds like a very basic day, not really noteworthy, but shes HERE. The Doctor said she was very, very lucky and had I not acted quickly the consequenses would have been severe. And she is a piece of me that I can't live without. So you wrote hoping to help one person, just one. Guess what? You did it. You kept my family whole. We can't thank you enough.
  • A really good blog post. Here in Wales we don't get your temperatures but on days like today (rare!!) when it hits 32 degrees it is good to have a reminder that keeping cool is very important and the signs of heat stroke. I think we get complacent because we aren't used to experiencing constant heat so it is a very timely read for me today.

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