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Child care experts keep close eye on children in summer heat

MADISON (WKOW) — Scorching temperatures have made their way into southern Wisconsin and some local day cares said they keep children inside when the heat index jumps.

“Children are not allowed to go outside when the heat index is at 90 degrees or higher,” said Kaelynn Vanderslice with Bee Balm Learning Center in Madison. “This morning we gave a heads up to teachers because it’s going to be a scorcher today.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, infants and children up to 4-years-old are at the greatest risk for heat-related illnesses. Bee Balm offers services for children who are 6-weeks-old to 5-years-old.

At the Madison-area YMCA, children can participate in numerous camps and events year-round.

Those who run the camps operate on the same rules governing when children can be outside. Younger children are kept inside at 90 degrees. Older children are kept inside when the heat index reaches 100 degrees.

“We monitor the weather every day and we keep the kids in water activities all day long when we have that,” said Jason McColl, the branch executive director for the East YMCA.

Children at one of the camps were kept busy with water play Thursday, but McColl said that while the water will keep them cool, it won’t prevent them from getting sick.

“Kids are running and they’re still sweating all day long,” he said. “Even if they’re in the water and not getting fluids, they could get dehydrated.”

McColl and Vanderslice said they make sure children have constant access to water bottles.  They also emphasized the importance of shade and frequent breaks.

“All of our playgrounds have natural shading,” said Vanderslice. “We’ve added different canopies to offer additional shading.”

Bee Balm teachers err on the side of caution, Vanderslice said. Because their children are on the young side, communication about how they’re feeling can be difficult.

“We don’t rely on children to give us verbal cues that they’re uncomfortable,” she said.

She said they look for changes in behavior that may point to heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Some of those signs can include sweating, being lethargic, or pink skin. They also keep a close eye on whether the children are acting as they normally would.

“It can happen really quickly,” she said.

McColl also recommended that children use sunscreen if their parents allow it, and put on bug spray. They can also wear lighter clothing so they’re not outside in the sizzling temperatures in long sleeves and pants.

“We just want everybody who comes to our camp to enjoy themselves,” he said. “Safety first and foremost.”

Sara Maslar-Donar

Reporter, WKOW 27 News

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