How To Survive an American Heatwave, With Kids and Pets

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

I used to relish the two or three truly hot days that our miserable British climate provides annually. As an expat in the U.S., however, I dread the long, hot, squelchy summer. But I’ve learned how to survive it. Knowing what to do to keep cool in the extreme heat is doubly important if, like me, you’re controlling the temperature for a child or animal. I’m the proud owner a 17-month-old human, who views the New York summer with the level of contempt she usually reserves for the kid down the road who steals her ball. Here’s how we stay cool on those days when the thermostat tips 90 degrees.

Air conditioning
Please don’t do what I did when I first arrived in NYC in mid June and think you can make do with a couple of box fans and occasionally sticking your head in the freezer. You really can’t. I know air conditioners are pricey and can be complicated to fit. They’re also noisy and expensive to run. But if you’re not lucky enough to live somewhere with integrated A/C, you should invest in one or two units – either the window mounted kind or free standing. Otherwise, be prepared to sleep terribly and sweat indelible misery patches onto your sheets. If you have kids or pets, it’s even more important to control the heat inside. A baby’s safety and comfort relies upon you making sure the temperature is somewhere in the region of 68 degrees. You might also need to simultaneously run a cool humidifier to ensure the air isn’t too dry for your youngster.

Shady areas, hats and sunscreen… yes, even for animals
If your pets and kids spend a lot of time outside—even in the early morning before the sun is at its strongest—make sure they have shady spots to roam. Exposure to bright, hot sun anytime of day can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion and sunburn. A good quality, full-spectrum sun block (ideally factor 30) is essential to guard against burning and skin cancer. It’s true people need some sun exposure to top up our vitamin D levels, but this can be achieved in a few short minutes’ frolicking in bright sunlight with a good amount of skin exposed. Then, get yourself and your kids slavered up or covered up. Top off the look with a wide-brimmed hat. Cats and dogs that spend time outside in the bright sun may also need to be protected.

Walkies at dawn
As anyone with a dog or child knows, they need a lot of exercise. If you don’t want them running laps in your living room and tearing up the sofa, then you need to take them outside. In the hot summer, the best time for this is as early as you can manage it. Because taking a kid or critter for a run around in the midday July sun is roughly about as fun as jogging on hot coals. o, as soon as you’re up, get out. Eat breakfast on the move; shove some ice in kiddo/Fido’s water; fill up a spray bottle (the type you use to spritz house plants) and head for the park. Mist yourself, the kids and any animals in your charge intermittently. Back home you can give them a soap-free bath to cool off without over washing and irritating their skin. Probably best not to dunk the kid and the dog together, mind.

Get your shopping delivered
Do not attempt to food shop manually in the summer if you have access to an online delivery service like FreshDirect. If this isn’t an option, many US supermarkets offer free delivery, so at least you won’t have to schlep bags home with an angry baby and hot dog in tow.

Frequent watering
Drink water. Lots of it. If you think you’ve had enough, drink some more. And always have water within reach for your children and animals, even if you’re inside with the A/C blasting. Air conditioning actually leaches moisture out of the atmosphere so you’ll be thirstier than usual.

What tips do you may to keep children and pets cool in the U.S. heat? Tell us below:

See more:
Summer in America: 10 Tips for Visiting Brits
Toni Hargis: What I Miss About British Summers

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis