Deconditioned by the aircondition

Recently, we lost the air conditioning in our home. My family welcomed the sympathy as we fried in an early summer heat wave. My neighbors and co-workers all offered us time in their homes as a respite from the heat. Actually, it wasn’t too bad at home. If anything it showed my family how much energy we in fact waste. With the help of two fans and by pulling down window shades, the homework still got done, meals were eaten, and the kids, although sweaty, still played.

Our weeks in our hot home made me think about a disturbing trend I tend to see over the summer. Often, overweight kids at the end of summer come back to my office heavier than they were in the spring. I’ve always thought of summer as a time for constant outdoor play and physical activity, but for some, the hot summer is as tough as the cold winter when it comes to healthy weight maintenance. As I saw my kids function as they normally do despite the heat, I wonder if we use high temperatures in summer just as we use low temperatures in the winter as an excuse not to send our kids outside. 

Of course we need to be respectful of the dangers of over-heating. As the air conditioner fix it company works in my home, I’ve read at least four articles that came across my computer about the signs of heat stroke. We too have written posts about dehydration in Two Peds in a Pod. Yet I wonder if our own inability to tolerate heat may be curtailing our kids’ activities. As one mom said to me, “I don’t want to send my kids outside, because I don’t want to go out with them.” 

Summer also makes me think “Ice Cream.” I am a great fan of the ice cream truck. In fact, I am friends with the ice cream man and pictured here is a photo of a beautiful gift he gave me before he left last summer. But I wonder if we use the heat as an excuse to give more ice cream and more sugar filled drinks such as lemonade than we do during the school year.  As much as we complain about school systems institutionalizing junk food as part of classroom celebrations and lunches, private camps are not necessarily better regulated.  And for the kids at home, parents often feel obligated to feed play dates “something fun.”

An American Journal of Public Health article in 2007 supports my observations. The study lead by Paul T. Von Hippel found a more rapid rate of weight gain (using body mass index) during kindergarten and first grade summers than during the school year. Unfortunately the study was not structured to shed light on the reasons behind the rate increase, but I’m thinking it’s us… the perfectly-coiffured-not-smelly parents who somehow on the way to adulthood forgot how to turn on the hose and play in the summer heat.

Naline Lai, MD with Julie Kardos, MD

©2011 Two Peds in a Pod®


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