Extreme weather

Playing it cool

sunsmart alonDepending on where you live as an au pair, sun and heat safety may be an issue for you and your host family.

If you are in a warm climate or near a beach, extreme sun exposure can pose the threat of sunburn, dehydration or heat stroke. Great care must be taken to avoid too much exposure to the sun.

Protection from damaging UV rays is particularly important, as it is the common cause of many skin cancers later in life.

Skin damage by radiation is cumulative, so protection must start from an early age – use an appropriate sunscreen to protect children’s skin from UV rays when playing outside.

Here is a useful video with tips on how to be sun safe:

Video produced by Universal PIctures

So follow these recommendations to prevent sunburn and exposure to UV radiation:


Even if you’ve slip-slop-slapped to prevent sunburn, care is needed in extreme heat to avoid illnesses including:

  • Heat rash
  • Dehydration
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat Stroke


What if you do get a sunburn?

The best way to heal burned skin is to give it time.  Sunburn can be very painful, especially if the skin blisters or peels.  In severe cases of blistering or broken skin, seek medical attention. Otherwise, try to cool the skin with ice packs or a cool bath.  Pain relievers can be used as well, according to directions.

 Extreme heat

Extreme heat can cause the body to overheat, causing a variety of life- threatening problems.

Watch this video on extreme temperatures to learn more:

Video provided by Premium Health

a toddler drinking water from a garden hoseDehydration

Dehydration can be very serious and can happen easily, especially in hot weather. If a child is not drinking enough fluids to replace those lost through sweating, they can easily become dehydrated.

So, remember to look for these signs:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Exhaustion
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Lack of urine and tears
  • Pale, “sunken”  skin
  • A young child who’s dehydrated will have fewer wet nappies.  Older children will not wee as often as usual.

How to treat dehydration

You can prevent dehydration by giving children regular drinks of water or hydration fluid.  Frozen slushies or icy poles will also help with hydration. In severe cases of dehydration, admission to the hospital is required as fluids can be given intravenously.

Heat stroke

Children, and especially infants, are susceptible to heat stroke as it is more difficult for them to regulate their body temperatures.  Heat stroke is hyper-thermia, where the body reaches a temperature where it can no longer function normally.

In extreme heat, look for the following symptoms and seek medical attention immediately, as heat stroke can be fatal:

  • high body temperature
  • the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin
  • rapid pulse
  • difficulty breathing
  • disorientation
  • seizure
  • coma

If anyone you are with exhibits these symptoms in extreme heat, try to cool their body temperature through shade and dehydration and seek medical attention immediately.

Remember to seek shade, hydrate with water and other cool beverages, and don’t stay in the heat for long periods to avoid illness.


Cold Temperatures, ice and snow

If your host family happens to live in a colder climate, you will likely be met with the challenges of ice and snow in winter. Snow can be a lot of fun, between skiing, sledding and building a snowman.

But please note the following dangers, and take the necessary precautions if living in a cold climate:

  • Sunburn – white snow reflects the sun and skin can easily burn. Practice the sun safe steps above and apply sunscreen to exposed skin in winter, too!
  • Eye damage – sunglasses are recommended on sunny, snowy days to help protect sensitive eyes from burning.
  • Ice – it is very easy to slip and hurt yourself on ice. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes and tread carefully!
  • Snow – never let children play unsupervised in deep snow. It is possible to become trapped or buried in snow and suffocate.
  • Avalanche – if you are in a mountainous area, be aware of avalanche warnings. Never ski, snowshoe, or walk in unsupervised areas and always let other adults know where you are in case of an accident. Many ski areas now offer transmitters that you and the children in your charge wear to assist in locating you in case of an avalanche.


Exposure to cold can mean the possibility of dangerously low body temperatures. Be sure to always to always take the following precautions to avoid hypothermia:

  • Dress warmly in layers
  • Wear hats, gloves and scarves to protect exposed skin
  • Keep moving when outdoors in cold temperatures to keep the body warm
  • Wear waterproof and warm socks and boots in snow
  • If a person starts shivering uncontrollably, has blue tinted lips, or loses feeling in fingers or toes, seek warmth immediately
  • Keep indoors temperatures at a comfortably warm setting

Symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Confusion and poor decision-making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Lack of concern about one’s condition
  • Progressive loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Red skin
  • White or black or numb fingers, toes or extremities – signs of frostbite

If you suspect someone is hypothermic, seek warmth immediately. Cover them with additional blanket or, even more effectively, use your own body heat to help warm up the other person. Contact emergency services for help, especially if the patient in disorientated or losing consciousness.