If we expended as much thought and money on keeping cool, comfortable, and healthy in summer heat as is expended in keeping warm, comfortable, and well in cold climates, no one would complain of the heat at all, and summer ills would be at a minimum.
As it is, we take few precautions to keep well in this season of high temperatures and high humidity, when germs of all kinds flourish, and may cause epidemics often of a severe type.
Babies and little children, whose bodies have not yet acquired strong resistances against the germs of disease — (specially disease of the digestive tract), are too often the victims of their attacks, and such epidemics as gastroenteritis and poliomyelitis spreads quickly and dangerously among these most susceptible members of the community.
Here are some simple practical precautions for all parents of young children to take when fly-born, or food-born infections are prevalent:
Therefore in every home or housing project or camp where there are children, special precautions should he taken to eliminate every source of infection and to limit any infection that may have started already.
KEEP YOUR CHILD FIT. Fresh open air, open windows, and sleep-outs that admit the sun — even the hot summer sun, during part of the day at least, do not allow the growth of germs as closed and deeply shaded rooms and verandas do.
It is very important to give babies and children enough to drink in hot weather. Because their bodies are small the skin surface from which water may be lost is very great in comparison with adults, and they very quickly become dehydrated, just with loss of moisture in sweat and even by imperceptible evaporation from the skin.
Thus they want frequent drinks of water — either plain boiled water or flavored with fruit juices or vegetable extract. This is even more necessary if there is any diarrhea or vomiting. In fact, maintaining the fluid balance is the most important factor in the treatment of gastroenteritis.
Older children can ask for a drink of water, but babies cannot do so; and unless fluids are offered to them frequently, their tissues quickly become dried out — the most dangerous effect of the disease.
The child’s diet should be carefully supervised in summer, always remembering that many children cannot tolerate creamy milk or much fatty food during hot weather.
Do not over-feed
In fact, the child’s nutrition should be kept at its optimum, by breast-feeding or suitable milk mixtures for infants, and well-balanced regular simple meals for children. Over indulgence in rich Christmas fare may cause a gastric irritation that sets the stage for a more serious infection.
Babies should not be over clothed — a cotton singlet and nappy or merely a nappy — or even no clothing at all — are desirable in the home in the heat of the day.
A loose cotton nightdress as well at night, and a cotton blanket that can be pulled up over the child should the temperature fall in the small hours are all that are necessary.
There is more tendency to over-clothe than under-clothe children, though, of course, they should never be allowed to become chilled when driving in the wind, or after a sudden drop in the temperature.
A DAILY inspection of the garden and yard and lavatory (if outside) should be made — even if you do live in a housing camp and have near neighbors — to make sure that no rubbish is lying about, that all garbage tins are closely covered, that the E.C. has a well-fitting self-closing lid, and that no night soil has been spilled about in its removal. Lavatory seats should be scrubbed daily with disinfectant, and plenty of ash or sawdust provided for covering.
These seem to be simple preventative precautions, but they are often neglected.
In the house
INSIDE the house — floors — especially carpeted floors, should be kept scrupulously clean — specially where there are toddlers who after all spend all their time very close to the floor, and are always prone to pick up bits and pieces and put them in their mouths.
While babies are in the lying, sitting, or creeping stages, they should never be put on the floor unless protected by a clean rug, preferably a plastic-lined rug of washing material.
Modern kitchens can very easily be kept clean, and food covered or refrigerated; but there are still many kitchens with few such facilities. Everything should be done in these old-fashioned houses to keep the numerous cracks and crevices clean, the food covered, the ice chest regularly scoured, and the war on cockroaches should never cease.
All milk, warm or pasteurized, should be scalded in summer, quickly cooled and kept on ice. All utensils, bottles, teats, spoons, plates, should be boiled daily and kept on a special tray or table with a gauze cover thrown over them.
The setting aside of a tray — even a cheap tin tray — for all the baby’s things in kitchen simplifies matters, and prevents their contamination with flies, fingers, or dust.
Baby’s food needs special care. The coldest compartment of ice box (next to the ice) or refrigerator should he reserved for it, and it should be kept in sterilized covered containers.
When baby is taken on an outing, see that his bottles are well wrapped and carried in a separate compartment of the diaper bag — not mixed up with soiled diapers, which should be kept in a special thin plastic bag of their own.
Every mother knows that soiled napkins should be put in to a covered receptacle at once, disinfected, trashed and boiled; and that used potties should be emptied at once, and disinfected. But many an otherwise careful mother slips on these precautions in the pressing rush of housework; and many a busy mother omits to wash her hands before and after attending to baby and before fixing his food.
Every mother should be scrupulously careful about these details in times of epidemics if she is to keep her tinies free of infection. It is the least she can do.
Finally, “psychological trauma” and all, the toddler who has learned to use his “trainer” regularly daily since infancy, is a much safer risk than the one who cannot be relied on as to time and place, and is always in danger of contaminating his surroundings and attracting flies before proper cleansing can be carried out.