Tips for traveling in extreme heat with seniors, kids, health conditions

Posted by Smoother Life on

When we travel with people we care for -- our kids, aging relatives, and those with medical conditions -- their more vulnerable status is something to consider and prepare for.

Older adults, for example, are less able to regulate temperature making them more susceptible to heat illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Babies and children also sweat less and generate more heat than adults. This makes them prone to dehydration, heat rashes, exhaustion, and injury. For those with fragile health, high temperatures can worsen existing medical conditions as the body has to work harder to keep its core temperature to normal levels. The extra strain on the heart, lungs, and kidneys can trigger medical emergencies.

Despite these risks, with some planning and preparation, we can more comfortably go about our business and be on our merry way. Read on for some tips for keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy and happy when traveling in hot weather: 

1. Avoid peak hot hours

If possible, avoid traveling during the hottest parts of the day – 11 am to 3 pm. Schedule appointments and engagements for early in the morning or during the evening when it's cooler.

2. Dress in loose, breathable clothing

When car trips must be taken in extreme heat conditions, dress in loose, breathable clothing such as cotton. Pastels and lighter colors are also better to wear than darker colors because they absorb less heat.

3. Protect your skin

Use sunscreen with a high SPF and UVA rating to protect the skin. For those with sensitive skin, try using a paraben-free, fragrance-free sunscreen with an SBF 30. One example is Blue Lizard Senstive Mineral Sunscreen. It's SPF 30+, water-resistant with UVA/UVB protection. Small bottles can also be kept in purses and wheelchair bags for convenient access.

4. Stay hydrated

Sometimes trips end up taking much longer than anticipated due to construction, traffic, or unexpected car problems. Being prepared by having enough fluids to drink can prevent dehydration and heat illnesses. Bring bottled water on car rides for children and adults.

Extra water bottles or formula can be easily carried to a vehicle in a portable insulated cooler bag. You can also find insulated cooler bags that are like car seat backpacks. They look cool and keep drinks and snacks convenient and organized.

When traveling with babies in warm weather, bring extra bottles of formula or breast milk and keep them in a cooler bag. Some cooler bags like the one here come with an ice pack that is pre-frozen before use. Ice packs can also be made by filling a Ziploc plastic bag with ice. Seal and place ice pack(s) in the insulated bag to keep drinks cool.

5. Use a windshield sunshade

Vehicles can really heat up in the sun. Use a windshield sun shade and place it on top of the dashboard. Sunshades can significantly reduce the interior temperature of the cabin and protect the dashboard and steering wheel from cracking and sun damage.

6. Use window screens

Use window screens to block the sun from directly beating down on upholstery and vulnerable passengers. Parents often use back seat window screens like this one to protect babies and young children from the heat and glare. Transparent screens can also protect arms from harmful rays.

7. Use large towels, fitted covers to prevent hot upholstery and burning metal seat belts

When temperatures climb, metal seat belts and leather, vinyl/leatherette car upholstery can become scorching hot. If possible, park vehicles in a garage or sheltered structure before use. If this is not possible, use bath or beach towels to cover the car seats. This will help prevent passengers from coming into direct contact with hot upholstery and will make the ride more comfortable.

Breathable, fitted car seat covers for the front and back seats can also be purchased. Use those that are made of materials that are resistant to heat fluctuations, such as faux suede or cotton blends. When it's blazing hot outside, seat covers can prevent burns and sticking and make it more comfortable for passengers. They also protect seats from sweat, dirt, incontinence, and spills. This universal-fit, all-season front car seat cover is machine washable.

To prevent seatbelt burns, try tucking metal ends into the seat cushions or into the bottom of the seat back. Locking seatbelts into place and covering them with a blanket or towel is another option.

8. Use toddler car seat covers, towels, cooling mats to protect kids

Children’s car seats can be removed and stored inside to keep them cool. Covering the whole car seat with a blanket or large towel will also help to shield upholstery from the sun and prevent burns.

A breathable, 100% cotton, children's car seat cover can also be used. This one is machine washable and has universal harness openings that fit most front-facing or 3-in-1 toddler car seats. Toys, bottles, and snacks can be placed in cup holder openings on both sides.

When the heat outside is extreme, a freezable mat will cool down a child's car seat before the child is seated. Place the mat in a freezer overnight, then place on an empty car seat for 10 minutes. Remove the cooler mat and then place the child in the car seat.

9. Use remote car start

A vehicle with remote start can make life a lot smoother and cooler in the summer. The vehicle can be started from inside while we get kids ready and the elderly in wheelchairs. By the time we head out, the car outside is ready – cool and comfortable. Some cars that offer remote start include the Honda Accord, Nissan Pathfinder, Acura TLX, and the Subaru Legacy.

10. Maintain vehicles

Preparing our cars for driving in extreme heat is important. Tires, battery, and vehicle fluids should be checked to ensure proper vehicle performance. Fluids that need to be maintained to appropriate levels include coolant, transmission fluid, motor oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid.

11. Keep safe while on the road

Purchase a roadside assistance service such as AAA. If your car breaks down, a service like this can get you and those you are caring for to safety.

12. Transporting seniors and those unable to drive

If caregivers are unavailable and there are concerns about the safety of elderly or medically compromised loved ones driving alone in hot weather, a ride-share service or traditional cab service can be used. A friend or family member can request service for another person using the Uber app on their phone. For instructions on how to request a ride for someone else, click request a ride for someone else here.

Non-emergency wheelchair-accessible transportation can also be arranged through companies such as Greater Chicago Transit.

13. Hire a personal driver / caregiver

Hiring a personal driver is another solution for those whose medical condition makes it dangerous to drive themselves, especially in extreme weather. Check out this article on how to hire a personal driver. A caregiver can also be hired through to help the elderly and more vulnerable get into vehicles and drive them to appointments.

14. Avoid traveling in extreme heat altogether, use other options

Sometimes the most prudent decision is to stay home and avoid traveling when the temperatures are dangerously high, especially for our most vulnerable. Nevertheless, necessities such as food may still be needed. Errands, such as grocery shopping and purchasing other household items may still need to be completed. If a friend or family member is unable to assist at that time, caregivers hired through or Carelinx can run errands so others don't have to risk driving in extreme heat.

Another easy option is to order food and supplies through delivery services such as Instacart. Groceries can arrive at your loved one's doorstep in 30 minutes when using the "Convenience" feature; otherwise, items typically arrive within two hours. Depending on the area, items may be ordered from pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, pet stores and big box stores such as Costco, Target, Sam's Club, Bed Bath & Beyond and Best Buy. The person ordering has the ability to communicate with the Instacart shopper as they select items. Click here for more information.




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