Health, Yes

June 13, 2024

Expert tips for staying safe in the heat

Following basic summer safety tips will help keep your family safe and healthy as temperatures rise.

Summer is always hot, but the weather forecast for middle to late June is very hot.

School is out and summer is in — but safety is year-round.

Protecting children (and adults) while they have fun in the sun is a top priority for the Injury Prevention team at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The following basic summer safety tips will help keep your family safe and healthy as temperatures rise.

Sun exposure 🔆

Sunscreens and blocks work best when combined with other protective options.

The simple slogan — Slip, Slop, Slap — can be an easy reminder of the steps to take for sun protection.

Slip into clothing to cover the skin, slop on sunscreen or sunblock, and slap on a brimmed hat to protect the face. For extra protection, add two additional steps: slide on sunglasses and shade from the sun.

Experts offer the following sun protection tips:

  • Use SPF products of at least 30.
  • Apply sun protection at least 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Reapply every two hours, no matter what the label states.

No matter the skin pigmentation — sun protection is vital, experts stress.

Water Safety 💦

Warmer weather means families in Tennessee will be flocking to lakes and pools to stay cool. It also signals the beginning of an uptick in drowning or near drowning incidents.

“Drowning is a silent killer,” said Stacey Pecenka, MPH, CPH, manager of the Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program at Monroe Carell. “In less than 20 seconds, a child’s lungs can fill with water. In only minutes of the child not breathing, brain damage and/or death can occur.”

Parents are frequently cautioned about water safety — but accidents still happen.

The statistics in the United States are startling:
• Every 10 minutes someone dies from drowning.
• One out of every five drowning victims is a child.
• For every child who drowns, another five children are treated for injuries related to being submerged in water.
• Overall, drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 4 years old.

Adults should be aware that drowning doesn’t look like the dramatic splashing or shouting that’s often depicted in movies or TV shows, Pecenka said.

“The sad truth is that many times the child slips under water silently, and even people near or in the pool with them have reported hearing nothing during drowning incidents,” she said. “It only takes an inch or two of water for a young child to drown, which highlights the importance of adult supervision.”

Also, swimsuit color can be lifesaving, according to water safety experts. Avoid blue or green that can blend into the water and pool surroundings making it difficult to spot a child. Bright and contrasting colors are recommended due to the high visibility both underwater and on the surface.

Safety experts highlight the ABCs of water safety:

A – Adult supervision

  • Active adult supervision is arguably the most important water safety rule. At least one adult should be focused on the pool and close enough to touch the swimmers if necessary.
  • Designate an adult “water watcher.” This person’s sole responsibility is to watch the pool area for 15 minutes and not read or talk on the phone. After 15 minutes, pass the responsibility to another adult for 15 minutes, and so forth. Ensure that the “water watcher” is a sober adult who knows CPR and has basic swimming skills.
  • “Floaties” (inflatable armbands) or other inflatable flotation devices are not life jackets and are not a substitute for adult supervision.

 B – Barriers and boating safety

  • Have a properly working physical barrier such as a fence, pool safety cover and pool alarm (one meeting code requirements).
  • If the home opens directly to the pool: install door alarms and locks.
  • Always swim at a lifeguarded beach and pay attention to the beach warning flags.
  • On a boat, wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

 C – Classes

  • Teach children to swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children as young as 1.
  • Adults and children 13 and older should learn infant and child CPR.

Heat Exhaustion ♨️

Hydrating before, during and after outdoor activity is crucial — whether kids are playing recreational sports or just out enjoying the sunshine. 

Clothing also plays a role in summer safety and avoiding heat exhaustion. Experts suggest wearing light-colored and loose-fitting clothing made with breathable fabrics. Parents should keep an eye out for the signs of heat exhaustion, which include the following: 

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cramping

Heat exhaustion needs immediate care. If a child begins to experience any disorientation, there could be a concern for heatstroke, which requires emergency care. 

Hot Cars

As temperatures inch up over the summer months, advocates urge caregivers to take appropriate steps to prevent hot car deaths and injuries.

“The overwhelming majority of hot car tragedies involve a child who was unknowingly left or gained access to the vehicle on their own,” said Pecenka. “Life is full of distractions, and keeping track of where your children are is more important than ever.”

One of the most important steps is to keep cars locked.

Even on cooler days closer to 70 degrees, children can experience vehicular heatstroke.

Lawn Care

  • When you mow the lawn, keep children ages 5 and younger inside or away.
  • Never let children ride on mowers or in carts towed by mowers.
  • Don’t allow children younger than 12 to use a push mower or those younger than 16 to drive a riding mower.
  • Store mowers away from children. Toddlers can cut or burn themselves on mower parts.


  • Watch children while they play at the playground.
  • Keep children away from the front and back of swings while in use.
  • Make sure metal slides are cool to prevent burns.
  • Check play equipment for exposed bolt heads, sharp edges and places because fingers can get pinched. Cover these with rubber.
  • Avoid riding double on swings and slides.