Tuesday, June 25, 2024
  Community, Health

By Heriberto Perez–Zuñiga

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – JUNE 25, 2024 – Summer is an excellent time for families to enjoy outdoor activities, create lasting memories and embrace the sunshine.

But with Valley temperatures hitting triple digits, parents need to be extra careful that their little ones stay safe and comfortable in the heat.

Dr. Cristel Escalona, board-certified pediatrician at UT Health RGV and associate professor of pediatrics at UTRGV School of Medicine, said being outdoors is essential for healthy baby development, but safety-first decisions are a must.

"It's important to balance the benefits of outdoor activities with the need to protect from the extreme heat and the sun exposure that’s so common in the Rio Grande Valley," Escalona said. "Our climate means parents should take extra precautions when planning outdoor activities this summer."

Dr. Cristel Escalona, board-certified pediatric hospitalist at UT Health RGV and associate professor of pediatrics at URGV School of Medicine, said being outdoors is essential for healthy baby development, but safety-first decisions in hot temperatures are a must. (Courtesy Photo)


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests avoiding prolonged outdoor exposure when the heat index exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit, as babies can overheat rapidly.

“Infants should not be exposed to direct sunlight until they are 6 months old. Young infants have not fully developed the ability to sweat or regulate their body temperature, so they can become overheated and dehydrated quite quickly," Escalona said. "For older babies and young children, parents must still be cautious." 

If there is a heat advisory in effect, Escalona suggests planning activities indoors as much as possible. Parents planning outdoor activities with their babies should make sure they have a plan.

“Make sure that you take plenty of water, utilize sunblock, appropriate apparel and stay in the shade as much as possible,” she said.  

She advises parents to take breaks every 15-30 minutes during outdoor activities, adjusting the frequency based on their baby's cues.

"This approach helps mitigate the risk of overheating and ensures children remain comfortable and safe in the heat," Escalona said.

"It's important to be mindful of the peak heat hours, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and schedule any outdoor activities in the early morning or late evening," she said. "Respect the heat. Conditions can get very dangerous and potentially harmful if the proper precautions aren't taken."


To ensure the best skin protection for children, Escalona suggests the following precautions.

  • Light clothing: Dress children in lightweight, light-colored, breathable fabrics like cotton. Sun shirts and hats are a great idea as they offer a lightweight breathable fabric that offers built in SPF.
  • Sunblock: Use sunblock containing either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These are known as mineral blocks and work well in protecting from the sun’s harmful rays. This type of sunblock is also not absorbed into a young child’s skin. A SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating of 30 or better is preferable. Chemical sunblock containing oxybenzone can have effects on the endocrine system. However, it’s important to note that applying any sunblock is preferable to none.
  • Stay in the shade: Always position a baby's stroller or play area under a tree or shaded structure to avoid direct sunlight. Use stroller covers or protective gear to help block out the sun (though do not cover the stroller completely, as the temperature can rise higher inside the stroller).
  • Schedule rest: The heat can tire out young children quickly. Plan for naps or rest periods after time spent outdoors. 

Other things to note is heat exhaustion, Escalona said. "This can occur faster than one realizes as children can become dehydrated quite easily.”

"If your baby develops generalized skin redness, is hot to the touch or has decreased activity after being exposed to hot conditions move them to a cooler environment immediately," she said.

"A cool bath or a washcloth can cool your child down. Change into dry clothes, offer a cold water or oral rehydration solution to drink to help cool your child down and rehydrate them,” she said.


Escalona also warns parents about the dangers of leaving a baby in a hot car, which can potentially lead to tragic consequences.

"The interior temperature of a car can rise extremely quickly, reaching well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit within a matter of minutes, even on days that don't seem excessively hot," Escalona said. "Under no circumstances should you ever leave your baby unattended in a parked car. The dangers are just too great."

“Especially for new parents, it’s important to get into the habit of always checking your backseat when traveling,” she said. “A momentary lapse in memory can be dangerous. Leave your purse or one of your shoes in the backseat with your child so that it helps you remember that your child is with you.”

For more information on summer safety, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or UTHealthRGV.org


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.