Heat Illness Prevention

Our typical sizzling summer has officially begun and temperatures are rising across the nation. My thermostat isn't reading as hot as some places like southern California (currently 114 degrees), but it's still pretty toasty outside.

As is normal for this time of year, lots of kids are going to be playing outside - whether at sports, in the pool or just running around. They more than likely are not going to be thinking about heat illnesses and sunburn, but parents should be.

The types of heat illnesses kids (and adults) can face are heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heatstroke is the most severe and can lead to brain damage or even death.

When heatstroke occurs, the body has lost its ability to regulate its own temperature.

When children are involved in extreme physical exertion such as playing sports in the hotter part of the day or are wearing clothes that do not breathe, body temperatures can rise as high as 106 degrees. If a child is left or trapped in a car on a hot day, temperatures can reach 125 degrees in 20 minutes. On a very hot day, temperatures can turn deadly much quicker.  

If your child has been playing outside and shows any of these symptoms-it's best to call 911 immediately.

- Flushed, hot, dry skin with no sweating

- Temperature of 105 F (40.6 C) or higher

- Severe, throbbing headache

- Weakness, dizziness, or confusion

- Sluggishness or fatigue

- Seizure

- Decreased responsiveness

- Loss of consciousness

While waiting for help:

- Get your child indoors or into the shade

- Undress your child and sponge or douse him or her with cool water

- Do NOT give him or her fluids

Heat cramps are another heat-related illness. They are typically short in length but very painful. They can happen in the legs, arms, or abdomen while exercising in extreme heat. The body loses salts and fluids through sweating and the low level of salts causes the muscles to contract. Kids are particularly vulnerable to heat cramps when they haven't been drinking enough fluids to replace what has been lost. While heat cramps can be very painful, they are not usually serious. If your child experiences heat cramps, move them into the shade or inside an air-conditioned area. You can give them fluids and massage the area that is cramping. Make sure they rest for a while.

Heat exhaustion is more dangerous than heat cramps but can also be caused by not drinking enough fluids. Some of the symptoms include:

- Dehydration

- Fatigue

- Weakness

- Clammy skin

- Headache

- Nausea and/or vomiting

- Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)

- Irritability

If you think your child is suffering from heat exhaustion:

- Bring your child indoors or into the shade.

- Loosen or remove your child's clothing.

- Encourage your child to eat and drink.

- Give your child a bath in cool (not cold) water.

- Call your doctor for further advice. If your child is too exhausted or ill to eat or drink, intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary.

If left untreated, heat exhaustion may escalate into heatstroke, which can be fatal.

If you live in one of the states that get really hot in the summer and friends or family members visit from a state that typically doesnt, be sure and pay special attention to them when they are outside. It takes time to acclimate to hotter climates and particularly when youre not used to them. 

Summer is a great time for relaxing and enjoying the out of doors, just make sure that your child has plenty of fluids to drink and doesnt overdue it in the heat.

Source: Steven Dowshen MD, http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/heat.html#

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