Hi! This is Sakura, a Japanese mom with 2 kids, living in Japan.
If you are going to be in Japan during the summer, BEWARE! It is hot. Extremely hot. It’s also super humid. Hot and humid means you are in danger of getting heatstroke. If you are in Japan with kids, you should be extra cautious because children are more susceptible to heatstroke.
Japanese moms are extremely cautious about heatstroke, because we have been told over and over again how it can be life threatening, especially for kids. But if you are new to Japan, perhaps you do not have so much information and is unaware of the danger of heat.
Here, I will guide you through ways to prevent heatstroke and survive the Japanese summer!
So…How bad is Japanese summer?
First, here is the 2018 summer temperature in Tokyo, Japan. I have shown the month, highest daytime temperature of the month, and the average humidity to give you an idea.
|Month||Highest Temperature||Average Humidity|
(Note: This data was taken Japan Meteorological Agent)
The highest is in July, and it is 39.0 C ! For those of you who have never experienced such high temperature, it is like you are ‘inside’ a hot tub and can’t breathe. The moment you go outside, you start sweating. If you accidentally stand on the outside concrete street bare foot, your foot will burn! Plastic toys left inside car wind shield will melt.
The official highest temperature here on this chart is 39.0 C. However, if you are in the middle of the city surrounded by concrete buildings, air conditioner condenser unit, and vehicles, the temperature will actually be higher than this.
I hope you can imagine how dreadful Japanese summer is.
Kids need support to survive summer in Japan
Even with this extreme heat, most healthy adults will be fine surviving in Japan. However if you are coming here with kids, you should be extra cautious. Heatstroke is not uncommon, and it can cause death.
The most susceptible are the babies and toddlers, because they dehydrate easily. Fortunately, Japanese parents are very careful with how to care for babies during the summer, so statistically the number of babies who suffer from heatstroke is extremely low.
In fact, heatstroke becomes a problem for older kids. Many teenage kids suffer from heatstroke, because they tend to take care of their own health, eat/drink/rest at their own pace, and parents (and other guardians) are less cautious about their body condition. So even if your children are teenagers and seem like they can take care of his/her health, make sure you check their condition, encourage rest and drink a lot of water.
Tips to Survive Summer in Japan with Kids
1. Water, water, water
The most important way to prevent heatstroke is to drink enough water. But don’t drink too much at once! Drink just an adequate amount, but frequently. Drink water before you actually feel thirsty. Remember that children sometimes forget they are thirsty, so tell them to have a sip. Have a cup of water after taking a bath, before sleeping and after getting up.
By the way, for parents, alcohol excrete more water and you unconsciously become dehydrated so it is not recommended! If you’re having a barbecue, remember to drink water with your beer!
2. Stay in the shade, avoid hot area
This is a basic skill I recommend you acquire while in Japan. Stay in the shade as much as possible! If you can move from one place to another using the underground route, do so. Try to use the train or taxi instead of walking long distances. Stay under the shade for even short amount of time, like waiting at the pedestrians crossing or at a bus stop. Have your kids where a hat when you go outside. Sun umbrellas, or parasol (called 日傘 higasa) are an excellent way of making personal shade.
4. Beware of reflecting heat outside
Concrete can be extremely hot. Also, the sunlight reflects on the concrete. This means that a child (who is closer to the ground than adults) will receive more heat and light from the ground. This is the same with babies in a stroller. Understand that kids are likely to be in a hotter environment than adults.
5. Never leave a child in a car alone
Unfortunately, some parents leave their kids in cars alone, and come back to realize their child is dehydrated, heatstroke, or worst case dead. This sad news happens every year. Even if you are planning to come right back, you never know what will happen.
In an experiment conducted by JAF (Japan Automobile Federation), a closed car reached 45 degrees C (113 F) in just 30 minutes after the engine was stopped! It reached 55 C (131 F) in a few hours.
So never, never leave a child in a car alone!
6. Indoors are dangerous too
Many people imagine heatstroke happening outside. But this is not always true, and heatstroke can easily occur indoor, including nighttime. In fact, for elder people, more than half of heatstroke in 2013 happened indoors, and 39% of death by heatstroke of all ages combined occurred at home.
Use the air conditioner adequately, if there is no air conditioner, keep the windows open to get the wind in. Make sure the bedrooms do not get overheated at night, when air conditioners tend to be off and windows closed. Check if you child is not wearing too much clothes or futon at night.
7. Take enough rest
Kids love to play outside, and they won’t realize how tired or thirsty the body is. It is the adults responsibility to tell them to rest and have a drink of water. Rest before you feel tired. Traveling is exciting and kids love to stay up late, but make sure you get enough sleep at night.
8. Take adequate salt
When you sweat, not only do you lose water, but also salt in the body. So it is important to taken in adequate amount of salt. There are many sport drinks that contains good ratio of salt and sugar, so drink those too. For kids old enough to eat candy, there are salt candies available.
9. Check your child’s health often
Heatstroke is difficult to realize, because it happens gradually. Know the signs of heatstroke, and react quickly if you notice anything unnatural.
10. Prepare useful cool-down items
There are a variety of items you can use to cool down and prevent heatstroke. Simple products like hats and sun umbrella (parasol) are available at clothes shop, sports drinks and ice at convenience stores, salt candies at drugstores, and so on. Many are sold at 100 yen shops too.
Signs and symptoms of heatstroke
Here are some typical early symptoms of a heatstroke:
- Feeling dizzy
- Muscle aches and muscle spasm
- High body temperature
- Skin turns red and hot
If you observe these, quickly let your child rest in a cool place, drink water, and cool the body.
The following symptoms are serious, so you should call the ambulance:
- Become unconscious
- Cannot walk straight
- Cannot drink water
Japanese words about heat warning
Lastly, here are some Japanese words about heat warning. You will probably hear/see these words often during the summer.
Means heatstroke. The word Nissha-byo/日射病/にっしゃびょう, which means sunstroke, was used more often before because people believed the sun caused the symptoms. But now it is known that it occurs without the sun (like indoors and at night) so Necchu-sho is used. 熱 means heat, 中means inside, 症 means disease.
Means prevention of heatstroke.
Means hydration, or taking in water. 水 (mizu) is the more common word for water (like drinking water). Sui-bun means water content.