Children seem to endlessly enjoy their summer, running outside in the sunshine for hours on end, seemingly oblivious to the hot weather. Unfortunately, too much time in the sun can lead to forms of heat illness. While localized forms of heat illness like heat rash or heat cramps can be a minor inconvenience, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be much more dangerous.
Your New Canaan Pediatrics healthcare providers are here to explain how heat illnesses happen, what to watch for and what to do when your child experiences a heat illness.
Heat illnesses occur when people – children or adults – spend too much time in hot and humid conditions, typically over 91˚F, without relief or adequate fluid intake, specifically water. Heat exhaustion can lead to:
- muscle cramps
- rapid breathing
- weak pulse.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion usually subside within an hour of cooling and rehydration with water or an electrolyte solution.
If symptoms don’t improve after 30 minutes or if a child’s temperature reaches 104 degrees, the child may be experiencing heat stroke. Other symptoms of heat stroke include:
- rapid and strong pulse
- agitation or mental confusion.
Heat stroke is a serious condition and requires medical intervention to ensure the excessive heat hasn’t impacted organ function.
When you think your child is experiencing heat exhaustion, cool them down by getting into shade or air conditioned indoors. Encourage them to drink cool water in small sips, and apply cooling cloths to the body.
If symptoms persist or you suspect heat stroke, call 9-1-1 and then begin cooling the sufferer with mists, fans and cooling cloths. Avoid offering fluids when you suspect heat stroke.
When the temperature is forecasted to top 91˚ F, limit outdoor activity to early mornings and later in the evening when it is cooler. Ensure proper hydration, encouraging your child to drink water every 15 minutes. While some sports drinks are helpful for replacing lost electrolytes, avoid drinks with sugar and caffeine as they can actually dehydrate your child.
Watch toddlers carefully: children under the age of 4 are more likely to suffer heat illness.
If your children participate in summer sports camps, talk to the administration about precautions taken on hot days. Intense activity and heat-trapping athletic equipment will increase the risk of heat illness.
Apply sunscreen to your child and dress them in light-colored, loose-fitting, and tightly-woven materials to offer the best protection against heat while ensuring small bodies stay cool.
Making smart choices while playing outdoors in the hot weather will help your family avoid heat illness and enjoy the summer.