Summer Safety for Children: Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Those living in the deserts of the southwestern United States don’t really need a thermometer to feel the summer heat. Yet, as the temperatures climb, it’s helpful to remember our bodies have to work even harder to keep cool, especially for those who are physically active in the heat. As a result, various ailments may develop, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These conditions can lead to serious injury or death, so it is important to know what signs to look for and how we can avoid these dangers.

Do you know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Would you know what to do if someone close to you was suffering from either of these conditions?

Heat illness includes a range of disorders that result when your body is exposed to more heat than it can handle. Especially in desert and subtropical climates, those not accustomed to hot weather are at higher risk of suffering from heat stroke (the most serious and life-threatening heat-related illness) as well as heat exhaustion and heat cramps.

Heat stroke while in vehicles has become an increasing issue for young children, causing 43 fatalities in 2013, according to Children overheat three to five times faster than do adults, making hot cars lethal in just minutes.

What is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Heat exhaustion results when someone is not properly hydrated. In children, ensuring they have access to drinking water, especially while they play or participate in athletics, is vitally important.

Children produce more body heat during physical activity that adults, but they sweat much less. This reduces their ability to get rid of body heat and can quickly lead to dehydration. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are dehydration, fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, headache, nausea, vomiting and irritability.

Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness, and is a life-threatening medical emergency. When a child is suffering from heat stroke, his or her body loses the ability to regulate its own temperature. Your child’s temperature can soar to 106 degrees or higher, leading to brain damage or death if not treated quickly. Prompt medical treatment is required. Heat stroke symptoms include flushed, hot, dry skin with no sweating, a temperature of 105 or higher, severe throbbing headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion, seizure, decreased responsiveness and/or loss of consciousness.

What to do

If your child is suffering from heat exhaustion symptoms:

  • Get him indoors or in the shade immediately
  • Encourage her to eat or drink
  • Loosen your child’s clothing

Heat exhaustion can escalate into heat stroke. If this happens:

  • Get your child inside immediately
  • Undress and sponge cool (not cold) water all over the body
  • DO NOT GIVE FLUIDS (in heat stroke only)
  • Call for emergency assistance.

How can you prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke in children?

  • Have your child drink lots of fluids before beginning outdoor activities, even if they are not thirsty.
  • Dress your child in loose-fitting, light-colored clothing
  • Limit your child’s exposure level by allowing outdoor activities only before noon and after 6pm.
  • Teach your child to stop playing and come inside whenever they feel overheated.

Knowing the signs, symptoms and treatments can prevent your child from suffering the effects from either of these life-threatening conditions.

Read more on this growing issue and protect your children.

Source: National Safety Council

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