With July 2012 on record as being one of the hottest months in U.S.
history and the August heat showing no let up in many parts of the
country, how can parents protect their children’s health during a heat
wave? “While kids and teens may think of themselves as invincible,
they’re prone to heat-related illnesses,” says Megan Summers, a
registered nurse in the Children’s
Hospital Los Angeles’ Rehabilitation Unit. “With summer temperatures
rising, it’s appropriate to talk about common heat-related illnesses and
ways to keep your kids and teens safe in the heat,” she says.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that heat is
the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in
hundreds of fatalities each year. In addition, the American Academy of
Pediatrics states that heat stroke is one of the common causes of
exercise-related death in high school students in the United States.
“Heat-related illness is more common than one may believe,” says Alan
Nager, MD, MHA, director of Emergency
and Transport Medicine of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
To better inform parents on the symptoms and remedies of heat-related
illnesses in children, Summers and Nager have identified signs of
heat-related illnesses and provide recommendations on important do’s and
don’ts when temperatures soar.
What are the Three Main Categories of Heat-Related Illness?
As a parent or guardian, it’s important to recognize when heat-related
illnesses affect your child and how to effectively treat it.
1. Heat Cramps/Edema/Syncope – These are the mildest of the
three heat-related illnesses. Heat cramps are common in children and
young athletes. Common symptoms are muscle pain, tightness and spasms.
Heat Edema – This is usually the result of being unaccustomed to
hot/humid temperatures. Common symptoms are swelling of the hands and
feet. Heat Syncope – This results from overheating, and having a low
intake of water and salt. Symptoms include pale skin, fatigue,
light-headedness and fainting.
2. Heat Exhaustion – This is severe and is a result of water
and salt loss from the body from excessive sweating. Heat exhaustion
occurs in conditions of extreme heat without adequate fluid and salt
replacement. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can develop into heat
stroke. Common symptoms are extreme tiredness, dizziness, nausea or
vomiting, rapid pulse, pale or flushed skin and profuse sweating.
Treatment includes the administration of cool liquids, use of fans,
cooler or cold environment.
3. Heat Stroke – This is extremely serious. It occurs when
the body’s temperature rises rapidly to an excessively high degree and
the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke is a life-threatening
emergency and requires IMMEDIATE medical attention. Common
symptoms are body temperature higher than 104 degrees, low blood
pressure, disorientation, loss of consciousness, seizures. Treatment
includes care in an emergency department. Care given will include ice
packs, intravenous fluids, lab testing and transfer usually to a
critical care unit.
What You Should Do When Heat-Related Illness Strikes
Whether you’re witnessing heat cramps or heat stroke, you should ALWAYS:
Remove your child from the activity they are playing
Get out of direct sunlight
Give your child plenty of water or liquid with electrolytes such as a
PRINTABLE SYMPTOM AND REMEDIES FLYER FOR YOUR HOME!
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has put out a simple guide to
recognize symptoms and remedies for each level of heat-related illness.
This is a good flyer to post on your refrigerator or family bulletin
board. Why not send it to friends and family too!
Why are Children and Teens Vulnerable?
Children and teens are busy and may not be able to recognize the
symptoms of heat-related illness. Children don’t realize they need rest
breaks or drink enough fluids. Additionally, infants and young children
must rely on other people to pace their activity and keep them cool and
Teens, especially young athletes may think they can “push through” the
heat and ignore symptoms. Educating children and teens about the
importance of adequate and proper hydration, as well as the dangers of
heat-related illness, is critical in reducing the risk of heat injury.
Heat-Related Illness Prevention Tips
Important tips – while staying in-doors if it’s extremely hot outside is
easier said than done, keep these tips in mind to protect your child:
Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.
Wear a hat.
Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more and
apply this every hour. For more information on sunscreen safety and
the FDA’s new regulations that come into effect this year see my
previous blog post, “Sunscreen
Safety: Understanding the FDA’s New Regulations”
Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, such as water or an
electrolyte enhanced drink like Gatorade.
Your child should drink fluids every 15 to 20 minutes.
Avoid fluids containing caffeine or alcohol. Caffeine and
alcohol actually make you more dehydrated and susceptible to
Plan your activities around cooler times of the day, for example
before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
Take frequent rest breaks in a cool and shady area.
For older children and teens, use a “buddy system” to keep an eye on
each other. Take rest breaks and drink enough fluids.
If you or your child is taking prescription medication or has a
chronic condition, please consult with the physician regarding outdoor
Restrict car trips to the earlier and later part of a hot day. “Cars
with no or poor air conditioning can be saunas,” Nager says.
“Hopefully, this information helps you feel more prepared to be outdoors
and how to handle heat-related illnesses if it occurs,” says Summers.
“Now go have fun and enjoy the summer!”
For printable copies of the heat exhaustion symptoms and remedies flyer
and additional information from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, go to:
About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s
hospital in California and among the top five in the nation for clinical
excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World
Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research
Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research
facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of
America's premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation since 1932
with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern
For more information, visit CHLA.org.
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or visit our blog: WeAreChildrens.org.
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