Beat the Heat at Your Club This Summer

Our friend Sarah Nemecek from BGCA’s Child Safety & Quality Assurance team is back with what you need to know to keep youth safe in the heat this summer.

During the summer months, warm weather means that more Boys & Girls Club activities can take place outside. But high temperatures combined with humidity can cause dangerous conditions that lead to illness. Children and teens are especially susceptible to heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The good news is that these illnesses are preventable and Clubs can take measures to keep youth, staff and volunteers safe from the heat this summer.

Fred Armisen Heat GIF by IFC - Find & Share on GIPHY

Check the Weather

When planning outdoor activities, including field trips, check the forecast and monitor for potential changes in weather. Pay attention to any heat advisories and excessive heat watches or warnings and adjust programming accordingly.

Be sure to also monitor the Heat Index, the measure of how hot it feels when the air temperature (in Fahrenheit) is combined with the relative humidity (percentage of moisture in the air). For example, on a day when relative humidity is very high, it might feel like 115 degrees outside when the thermometer reads only 90 degrees! Your Club might have policies related to programming during high temperatures and heat indexes; be sure to refer to these for more information and guidance.

Stay Cool

According to the CDC, staying in air-conditioned spaces is the number one way to prevent heat-related illness. On especially hot days, make sure Club programs take place in air-conditioned indoor locations as much as possible. Consider limiting field trips to such locations, such as the local library. Club leaders can also contact their local health departments to find local air-conditioned cooling shelters.

It is also important that youth, staff and volunteers dress appropriately for the weather. Wearing loose, light-colored clothing can help individuals stay cool when the weather is hot.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Drinking fluids can help prevent heat-related illnesses. When a person sweats from the heat while playing, exercising or participating in sports, drinking water helps keep their body from overheating. It is essential that everyone at the Club – members, staff, volunteers and visitors —has access to drinking water at all times. Be sure to stock plenty of fluids, especially water and non-sugary drinks.

It is the responsibility of Club staff to monitor members to make sure they are drinking enough water. Remind members not to wait until they’re thirsty to drink!

Sometimes, youth might not realize or communicate that they are thirsty, so consider establishing a hydration schedule so that staff can pause and actively encourage members to drink. Tailor the schedule to the activities of the day. For example, if youth are scheduled to play outside, be sure they drink plenty of water before and after the activity and pause for water breaks at regular intervals while playing.

The amount of water each person needs depends on their age, activity level and health as well as the local climate. In general, though, youth should drink water before, during and after physical activity, with more water needed on hotter days.

Here are other tips to help members stay hydrated:

  • Have members bring water bottles with them and make sure the bottles are regularly refilled
  • Schedule water breaks throughout the day
  • Always have water available, especially during meals and snacks
  • Add fruit or other flavors to make water more appealing
  • Bring spray bottles to mist youth who are feeling hot
  • Post signs near water access points, such as fountains and dispensers
Drink Water Drinking GIF by The Good Type Co - Find & Share on GIPHY

Protect Yourself From the Sun

Direct sunshine can increase heat index values, so it is important to limit time in the sun on hot and humid days. Not only does time in the sun increase your likelihood of dehydration, but it can also increase the likelihood of skin damage and sunburn.

Remember that the sun is at peak intensity from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, so it is important to limit outdoor activities during this time on very hot days. If members play outside during this time, avoid intense physical activity and be sure to schedule frequent rest breaks in the shade or indoors.

Make sure plenty of spray-on sunscreen is available (ideally, with an SPF of 15 or higher!) and if youth are sweating or swimming, make sure that sunscreen is regularly reapplied. Have parents and members prepare for time outside by bringing hats, sunglasses, cover-ups or other sun-protective gear. Clothing with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) can also be helpful for protecting skin from the sun.

Plan for Safe Transportation

On hot days, the temperature inside of a vehicle can dramatically exceed the temperature outside. Never leave children in parked cars, even if the windows are open. When planning a field trip or other activity that requires transportation, be sure to regularly inspect the vehicle, ensure the air conditioning works and sweep the seats to make sure all members safely exit the vehicle.

Watch for Signs of Illness

Dehydration happens when there is not enough water in your body. A person might feel thirsty, tired, dizzy, confused or have a headache when they are dehydrated. If left untreated, dehydration can lead to more serious heat-related illnesses. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, three common types of heat-related illness exist:

  • Heat Cramps. Painful muscle cramps and spasms that take effect after being active outside. These cramps are involuntary and the skin of the person affected might look flushed or moist.
  • Heat Exhaustion. More severe than heat cramps, a person with heat exhaustion might start to feel dizzy, faint, sweat excessively, run a fever or feel weak, among other symptoms. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke.
  • Heatstroke. A severe illness that requires immediate medical care. A person with heatstroke will not sweat, will have hot, dry skin and may lose consciousness. Seek medical attention right away!

It is important that Club staff remain vigilant to signs of heat-related illnesses in youth, staff and volunteers. Remind youth to notify you right away if they are feeling hot and help them access shade, air conditioning and water to cool down. Always call 911 if someone is showing signs of a life-threatening medical emergency and be especially prepared to assist youth and staff who have special needs or additional health concerns.

Educate Members About Heat Safety

Provide age-appropriate education to youth regarding the weather and heat. The National Weather Service provides a list of weather science content for kids and teens, and provides disaster preparedness games and educational materials for kids, teens, families and organizations. The CDC’s Ready Wrigley also provides books and checklists on preparing for emergencies, including extreme heat.

Encourage youth to take frequent breaks, stay out of the sun and drink water even when they aren’t feeling thirsty. Empower youth to let an adult know right away if they are feeling hot and educate them about the importance of drinking water. Model strong practices by practicing sun and heat safety!

Report Incidents

Follow your organization’s first aid and incident response policies to provide immediate care to anyone affected by the heat. Boys & Girls Club staff can also reach out to BGCA’s Child Safety & Quality Assurance Team to schedule a consultation on heat safety or any other safety-related topics.

For more information, see:

And here are more summer safety tips from Sarah!

How do you keep cool during summer programming at the Club? What are your best summer ideas? We want to share your best ideas! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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