I write a version of this post every summer. Puzzled parents ask me about their child’s sometimes dramatic reactions to playing outside in the heat. Kids are melting like popsicles, tripping and whining. Time to explain the way low tone and heat interact to create less safety, less stability, and less cooperation.
Yup, low tone has behavioral consequences. How to comprehend and manage it is one of the cornerstones of my first book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone. When parents understand that low muscle tone is more than a motor issue, things start to improve.
Heat has predictable effects on muscles. That is why people use heating pads on muscle spasms. But when a child has low tone, heat isn’t helpful. It makes it even harder to initiate and maintain a muscle contraction. Ambient heat and internal body heat combine to create problems for kids.
What does a child with low muscle tone look like when they spend time in a very warm environment?
- They fatigue more rapidly. They could walk to the ice cream stand but want to be carried back.
- They feel uncomfortable, but in a way that isn’t “sick”. It is a combination of sluggish and unsteady. The younger the child, the less they can express the difference between how they felt inside in the A/C and how they feel outside.
- They become more stubborn, more contrary, or simply more irritable. This can happen even if a child is typically the most even-tempered of kids. Add humidity? You might be in for a real rollercoaster ride.
- They are often significantly less safe when they move. They can have just enough of a delay in their ability to catch themselves when they fall, or fail to place their foot in the right spot climbing a stair. They can even slide off the chair they are sitting on!
What can parents do?
Plan active fun for the cooler times of the day, or at least do active play in the shade.
Dress your child in breathable clothing, perhaps even tech clothes with breathable panels or special fabrics.
Dress them lightly and in light-colored clothing.
Make sure that they are well hydrated at all times.
Offer healthy popsicles and cool drinks frequently.
Have a cool place to bring your child, so that they can literally “chill out”.
Teach them about the effects of heat on low muscle tone so that they can understand and eventually act independently.
Older kids can use cooling vests, but beware: nobody wants to look weird. The science may be there, but your tween or teen may ditch one when you are out of view. You can be honest about how they feel and see if they will try it in their own back yard, but be prepared to “Talk to the hand”.
Looking for more information on helping children manage low tone?
I wrote more posts for you to read: Is Your Child With Low Tone “Too Busy” to Make it to the Potty? , One Fun Way to Help Kids With Hypotonia Align Their Feet: Stomp-Stomp! and How To Improve Posture In Children With Low Muscle Tone… Without a Fight!
Need more information? I wrote three books for you!
The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, and both volumes of The JointSmart Child.
My JointSmart Child: Living and Thriving with Hypermobility series answers everyday questions about how to help children and allow them to have greater safety and independence as they grow. Parents who have a deeper understanding of hypermobility and have resources to pick out the best equipment, classes, clothing, and activities are EMPOWERED PARENTS! These books don’t use medical jargon, and they don’t ignore the behavioral and sensory components of hypermobility. That’s right; it is way more than loose joints!!
All of my books are available as paperbacks and e-books on Amazon and as clickable and printable downloads on Your Therapy Source . Your Therapy Source bundles my books to give you a great financial deal. You end up buying two books for almost the price of one!