Staying Safe from the Sun: Avoiding Sunburn and Heatstroke when Travelling With Kids

In the excitement of arriving somewhere new it is easy to overdo things, but there is a danger, especially for children, in doing too much in temperatures they are not used to.

Home for us is Manchester, England – a famously cold and grey (but amazing!) city where it rains 152 days a year on average. When we encounter the sun, we have to take it very seriously!  

Sunburn and heatstroke are both potentially serious medical issues that could cut your trip short, or worse. Luckily, you can take several simple steps to protect yourself and your little ones. Read on for our tips on avoiding sunburn and heatstroke when travelling with kids

The information below is drawn from the NHS and other medical sources; please do not treat this as medical advice. If in doubt, consult with a medical professional.

Sun cream is essential for Avoiding Sunburn and Heatstroke when Travelling With Kids
If in doubt, slap on the suncream!

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke 

Heat exhaustion and the more serious heat stroke are caused by the body overheating, usually due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

Children are especially prone to heat exhaustion as they take longer to acclimate and produce less sweat. 

To help avoid heatstroke you can:

  • Take it easy for the first day or two you arrive somewhere hot – A good excuse to lounge around and catch up on the blog!
  • Don’t overdo the air conditioning at first – Although very comfortable, if you spend too much time in a beautifully air-conditioned room your body isn’t going to adjust. By no means should you avoid air conditioning, but allow your body to experience the “new normal.”
  • Stay hydrated – Keep your kids well-topped-up with water and use sports drinks or rehydration sachets if they have been sweating heavily. This will help restore their electrolytes and salt balance. 
  • Avoid the sun during the hottest hours of the day – Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that! 
  • Take regular breaks – if you are sightseeing, ensure you all get plenty of time in the shade.

Heat stroke symptoms to watch out for are:

  • High body temperature (above 39°C)
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid breathing or heartbeat
  • Hot, dry skin
  • Seizures

If your children start to show the above symptoms, you should seek immediate medical help and then:

  1. Move them to a cool place.
  2. Remove all unnecessary clothing like a jacket or socks.
  3. Get them to drink a sports or rehydration drink or cool water.
  4. Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs, wrapped in a cloth and put under the armpits or on the neck, are good too.
Georgia and Eva are prepped for a suinny day at the beach - Avoiding Sunburn and Heatstroke when Travelling With Kids
Sun caps, long-sleeve tops and well-hydrated!

Sun Burn

When you travel, it is amazing seeing how different cultures deal with the sun. Australians dunk themselves in litres of factor 50; you can usually spot South Koreans and Japanese tourists by their sun parasols, whereas the British have been known to rub themselves in olive oil to really help the tan along (not recommended by the way!)   

When you are travelling with kids it is vital they are well protected from the sun. Like with heat stroke, they are more susceptible to burning due to thinner skin. Happily, there are plenty of things you can carry that will protect them:

  • Sun Hats – A must! They protect from UV rays and make life more comfortable by shielding the eyes and reducing squinting. The girls use either a rimmed hat or baseball cap that can be shoved in a backpack and not get misshapen. 
  • Light, Long-Sleeved Tops – Keeping the sun off your skin is the best form of sunblock, and a long sleeve top can work wonders at protecting against UV. Not always practical at the beach, but great when exploring cities.
  • Sunglasses – These are important but can be a bit tricky! The girls are very good at breaking or losing their sunglasses, and replacing them with quality ones that have proper UV shielding can be hard. UV protection is very important, especially at their age, and cheap “tourist tat” sunglasses may do more harm than good. When on the lookout for replacement glasses, we try and find a proper optician or chemist. For our prescription sunglasses, we keep a copy of the prescription on our Google Drive so they are easily replaced.
  • Suncream (at least factor 30, ideally 50) – This is a funny one; in the UK, it is readily available year-round for the three days of summer we get, but we have often found it hard and very expensive to buy whilst in South America or South East Asia.  Due to its weight, it is impossible to carry an endless supply, but you don’t want to be caught without, so grab some when you can. The best place in the world to buy suncream is Australia, where you can get it by the litre! We usually carry a couple of bottles of 200ml Factor 50 Waterproof suncream and a couple of pocket-sized travel ones for short trips.  They are also useful if you have just got carry-on luggage. If you plan to spend time near the coast look into purchasing marine-safe sun cream, which won’t leach out into the water and coral.
  • Fans – Keeping the girl’s core temperature down is key to avoiding heat stroke, especially in the first few days we arrive into a hot climate. We carry small, battery-powered fans that they can use to cool off a little if it is getting too hot.
  • Aftersun – There is debate on whether straight aloe vera lotion or aftersun containing the plant is better if you need burn relief. This comes down to personal choice, but we prefer aloe vera. It can feel a bit sticky but is great for more localised applications. If you can, put the bottle in the fridge before you use it; bliss! 

For more ideas and packing tips when travelling with your kids, check out our post: Into The Unknown: The Ultimate Equipment and Packing Guide for Travelling with Children

Sunnies at sunset

We hope you find the above helpful, if there is anything you think we have missed please leave a comment below.

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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