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Is summer lowering your child's IQ?

Caution: while your kids are having fun in the sun, their brains may be at risk. Learn which summertime mind-melting hazards to avoid and get brain-boosting alternatives.

By Hank Pellissier

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The sun's strong rays aren't just damaging your children's epidermis — they’re also diminishing their brainpower. Frying lazily for days on end on the hot sand can shrivel a person's smarts up to 20 IQ points, according to research by Professor Siegfried Lehrl of Germany's University of Erlangen. An excess of inactivity reduces oxygen to the brain, dimming neurons and literally causing frontal lobes to shrivel. Add to that dehydration from excessive heat or alcohol, and it gets worse, decreasing brain cell volume by as much as 15 percent.

What you can do: Thankfully, the effect is temporary and can be remedied when the brain is cooled and energized. To keep your young sun worshiper's noggin sharp, encourage scampering in the shade and drinking fluids. Vigorous exercise is superb for developing minds because it instigates the creation of new neurons (brain cells).

Hank Pellissier is a freelance writer whose fiction and essays have been been widely published and anthologized. A former columnist for Salon and SF Gate, he is a regular contributor to h+ Magazine.

Comments from readers

"This article is a bit ludicrous. IQ is, by definition, fixed. If you follow the link for, say, the comment by Paul Saffo, you see that the rermark about IQ decrease was flip, with no indication that it is backed up by any research whatsoever. If you think that your kids' IQs will be increased by taking their texting away--hey, good luck... "
"I am a School Psychologist who has worked in the New York City region for thirty years. I would love to see the research you claim lowere IQ and reliability follow up studies. While cognitive function may temporarily wane from inner and outter issues, IQ does not alter. Please use the proper word so as not to mislead and or give false information. "
""Dehydration from excessive heat or alcohol" ? What? These are kids we're talking about right? Kids work hard all school year and deserve some down time to simply daydream if they want to. "
"I knew I didn't want my kids watching SpongeBob for a reason! Glad to see research backs me up. I try to not freak out about any one day's activities, rather look at a few days or a week in total. Did we go to the playground/pool/play with friends/read/do a little homework? Great. Then I don't worry about going to the movies every week/extra video or computer time. "
"God forbid a kid actually enjoys the summer without a bunch of handwringing about a discredited assessor of "intelligence" by helicopter parents. To anyone this article actually caused any worry to: lighten up. "
"Wasted space, Nothing intellectually nutritious in this article. "
" "Add to that dehydration from excessive heat or alcohol, and it gets worse, decreasing brain cell volume by as much as 15 percent." ~ I sure hope these children are not drinking alcohol. What the heck? "