Back to episodes


Cool Tips for Summertime Heat – S1 E10

Are you and your baby prepared for the hot summer months? Toddlers and babies have a hard time regulating their body temperature, and that puts them at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. But don’t worry, we’ll tell you about the warning signs and how to keep your little ones cool, comfortable, and safe.

Host Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez chats with Matt Roach, Epidemiology Program Manager for the Climate and Health, Drinking Water, and Environmental Public Health Tracking Programs at the Arizona Department of Health Services. They discuss the danger of hot temperatures, tell you how to see the signs of heat exhaustion, and help you prepare your children for hot weather.

Podcast Resources:
Sun Safety Tips
CDC Sun Safety Tips for Families
Guest: Matt Roach
University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

host Guest: Matt Roach is the Epidemiology Program Manager for the Climate and Health, Drinking Water, and Environmental Public Health Tracking Programs at the Arizona Department of Health Services.


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and program director for the maternal infant and early childhood home visiting program at the Arizona department of health services. On each episode, you’ll get quick tips from the experts on topics that you wonder and worry about the most. From eating and sleeping to crawling and walking, no topic is off limits.

So whether you’re a first time [00:00:30] mom or an experienced parenting pro, this podcast is for you.

We’re so glad you’re here for another episode of The Parenting Brief. On our last episode, we covered sun safety tips to keep your baby’s delicate skin safe from harmful UV rays. And in keeping with our summertime theme, today we’re looking at a connected topic: heat-related [00:01:00] illnesses. Babies and toddlers are at a higher risk of heat stroke and exhaustion.

Their tiny bodies have a hard time regulating temperature, so it’s up to us as parents and caregivers to make sure they’re well-hydrated, wearing cool, appropriate clothing, and playing in shaded areas. It’s also important to know what the signs and symptoms are for heat-related illnesses so that you can act quickly

if you see your little one experiencing them. Summertime is all about fun, but having fun safely is so important. We have tips, tricks and [00:01:30] information on how to do just that during the summer months.

Here to help us spot the signs of heat stroke and exhaustion is Matt Roach. He’s the epidemiology program manager for the climate and health drinking water and environmental public health tracking programs at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Thank you for joining us today Matt.

Matt Roach: [00:01:53] Thanks for having me.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:01:55] On our last show, we talked about sun safety and preventing sunburns and sun poisoning. [00:02:00] Now we’re talking about heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Could you give us a quick explanation of those two?

Matt Roach: [00:02:08] Sure. So heat exhaustion and heat stroke are one of a few different heat-related illnesses with heat exhaustion being the less severe and heat stroke

being more severe. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and you’ll need to call 911 right away because it is life-threatening. The main difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke [00:02:30] is that in heat stroke, your body’s core temperature goes above 103 degrees. And at this point in time, there’s a lot of problems regarding your organ functions.

People may be having confusion, headache, they may faint, and under heat exhaustion you’re having more symptoms along the lines of heavy sweating, nausea, tiredness and weakness, dizziness, and headache. So the main difference between the two is that core body temperature with the heat stroke and heat stroke being a medical emergency.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:02:58] So before parents head out [00:03:00] the door with their children to play outside or even just to get into the car to run some errands, what steps should they take to make sure their baby is protected from the heat?

Matt Roach: [00:03:09] So there are a few steps that parents of children and babies can take. This includes being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, prevention steps, and treatment of heat-related illness.

So you want to remember to hydrate your kids before, during, and after going outside, bring plenty of water and avoid sugary beverages. Another aspect is sun safety while [00:03:30] you’re outside. So you’re going to want to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside and reapply that every two hours with at least an SPF of 15. In general, sunscreen can be applied to babies over six months old.

And choosing the right clothes is very important. So we want to have people dressed for the weather, which includes lightweight, light colored, loose fitting clothes, and a wide brim hat is also helpful. Another aspect that you could do is plan for the weather, check for hot [00:04:00] weather and plan to go out during the cooler parts of the day, such as the morning for outside activities.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:04:05] So in addition to prevention and proactive measures, knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness would be important to make sure that early intervention can happen. What signs should they be looking for? And does it look different for babies and toddlers than it does for older kids and adults?

Matt Roach: [00:04:22] So we’ll start with heat exhaustion, which is characterized by symptoms of cool moist pale skin. So the skin may be bright [00:04:30] red after physical activity. Headache, dizziness, weakness, or exhaustion, nausea, those are some of the heat exhaustion symptoms. As we progress into the more severe heat stroke, which is life-threatening,

some of the symptoms include vomiting, confusion, throbbing headache, decreased alertness, or complete loss of consciousness, that high body temperature above 103 degrees that I mentioned, and the skin may still be moist or the victim may stop [00:05:00] sweating. So one of the aspects of this is that sweating can stop at heat stroke, and so being aware of the different symptoms that I mentioned is very important. As well as being able to know what to do once you see those symptoms. So with heat stroke, as I mentioned it is life-threatening you’ll want to call 911 or a local emergency number if you or someone you know is suffering from any of those symptoms.

For the question regarding the symptoms between babies and [00:05:30] toddlers versus older adults and kids. I would say for babies and toddlers, they may not vocalize issues at hand and they can prioritize playing. I know I have a two year old that just wants to stay out and play all day. So it’s important to have someone around that can monitor for those symptoms and remind them to do things like hydrate.

But overall, the symptoms don’t look different, but it’s those circumstances that are important.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:05:53] If a parent notices any of these signs, what should they do?

Matt Roach: [00:05:57] So, if we’re talking about heat exhaustion, what do you want to do [00:06:00] first is move that person to a cooler place. So say somewhere in the air conditioning. Loosen their clothes and put a cool wet cloth on their body to help cool them off and offer them some water.

And then if you notice that they’re having signs of heatstroke, as I mentioned, that is a medical emergency, and what you want to do is call 911 right away, move the person also to a cooler place, and help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath. Do not give the person anything to drink because they may be unconscious,

[00:06:30] that might be really hard to do, so I would avoid that recommendation.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:06:34] I think that’s really important remembering to always keep our eyes on our kids. We talk a lot about, you know, make sure that you always watch your kids around water, but really we just need to be watching them outside and making sure that any of those risks can be mitigated before a tragedy strikes for sure. We all know parents have a lot on their minds, but we should stress just how important it is to not leave your child in the car unattended. I have read the [00:07:00] stories of those who have lost a child as a result of leaving a child in the car and it is devastating. I even know someone personally who has experienced this.

We’d like to think it wouldn’t happen to us. I mean, after all, “how can anyone forget their child in a car” seems to be a resounding response when one of these situations occurs. But the reality is that it can happen to anybody. While we don’t have the time to get into the nitty-gritty of the brain science of how this can happen, especially when routines are thrown off, our stress levels are high, [00:07:30] we can at least talk about the dangers and strategies to mitigate that risk. Could you talk about why this is dangerous for children and how quickly they can overheat in that situation?

Matt Roach: [00:07:40] Sure. So when we talk about children in cars, vehicles in direct sunlight can reach into dangerous temperatures very quickly, even if it doesn’t seem hot outside. And this applies to not just children, but anyone in the car, including older adults and pets. So in as little as around five minutes, a car temperature or outside temperature of the car around [00:08:00] 86 degrees can increase to about 134 to 154 degrees. So as compared to adults as well, children have a higher surface area to mass ratio and they can rise quicker in their core temperatures.

And they also have a lower efficiency of sweating. Another aspect is that children and infants are unable to control their environment. They can’t turn on the AC in the front if they’re sitting in the back. They may also fall asleep during car rides, or they may not be able to communicate [00:08:30] the effects that they’re feeling.

So as a child’s body heats up to those dangerous levels and increase, and their cardiac output occurs and heat stress proteins are created, which may affect thermoregulation, which is the body’s ability to maintain the temperature for proper optimization of your organs. And at these higher temperatures coming into organ failure.

So those are some of the dangers. In terms of how to prevent these [00:09:00] issues, it’s important to do a lot of planning and prepare by perhaps leaving a purse in the back seat or a cell phone in the back seat so that you remember to go in the back seat to not leave a child in there. Another aspect would be just to always have the air conditioning running in our hot summer air in Arizona, and just remember that all heat related deaths are preventable and we don’t want to leave kids in cars alone by themselves at any time.

[00:09:30] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:09:30] Do you have any recommendations or strategies for just getting into a hot car with an infant? So you’re out running errands and you come back and it is just hot. The car seat is hot. Do you have any recommendations on how to mitigate that level of heat as well?

Matt Roach: [00:09:50] So generally if you have your car in the sun in Arizona heat it is sometimes unavoidable for those increased temperatures. Sometimes we have little shade in our access. So [00:10:00] remember to use those shade screens inside your car and also something that you could do is just cool off your car ahead of time. If you want to go out a few minutes earlier, turn on the air conditioning so that the car itself cools down before you put the child inside. I know that sometimes also the seatbelts can get very hot. So that’s something to also look at when you’re putting your kid into the car on some of those hot days.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:10:24] So as we’re talking about this, how many cases are we seeing and what is the real [00:10:30] risk that we see with heat-related illnesses and children?

Matt Roach: [00:10:34] So last year in 2020 in Arizona, we saw six infants under the age of one years old that went to the emergency room for a heat-related illness and children between one and 14 years old

we saw 53 of them. Older adolescents between 15 and 19 we saw 121 emergency department visits. So it is happening. Additionally, over the last 10 years from 2010 to 2020, we saw about [00:11:00] 10 heat-related deaths from children less than one. And we know that heat-related deaths are preventable. So I believe that more work is needed to help prioritize interventions for this important topic.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:11:13] Where can Arizona parents go to learn more about preventing heat-related illnesses?

Matt Roach: [00:11:18] So you can visit to learn more about heat-related illness prevention. And we also have tips for school, including a school toolkit for school staff.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:11:28] Well, thank you [00:11:30] so much for your time today.

Matt Roach: [00:11:32] No problem. I’m glad to be able to share this important information. We know Arizona heat is something that’s sticking around and is something that we have to think about every day during the summer.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:11:49] Looking for more tips to keep your kids cool during the summer? Check out the show notes for helpful links and resources. While you’re there, don’t forget to follow The Parenting Brief on your favorite podcast app [00:12:00] like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also share this episode with the moms or expecting moms in your life.

A little parenting help can go a long way. Until next time, this is Jessica. You’ve got this, Mom.

Back to episodes