Extreme heat continues to plague the nation with many areas seeing record temperatures. Though everyone needs to take precautions when it comes to dangerous heat, it's especially important to watch your kids. Children are at a greater risk than adults of sustaining a heat injury.
"Kids bodies don't acclimate to the heat as well adults. They don't sweat as effectively. They absorb more heat since they have smaller bodies and a higher ratio of surface area to body mass," said Jerold Stirling, chair of the department of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and pediatrician at Loyola University Health System.
According to Stirling one of the greatest dangers is leaving a child in a car unattended on a hot day.
"No matter the child's age this can be dangerous or even deadly. Even if it's for a short period of time and you leave the car windows down it's dangerous. Inside the car can be several degrees hotter than outside and places a child at greater risk for heat stroke or heat exhaustion," said Stirling.
No matter where a child is or their age, according to Stirling, supervision and parental intervention are crucial when the temperatures reach these extreme levels.
"Kids are supposed to be out having fun. They can get wrapped up in what they are doing and forget to take breaks. They're also not as tuned in to their body's cues," said Stirling.
He suggests parents encourage their kids to stay active, but to make sure they're hydrated before going outside and also to take frequent water and cooling off breaks.
"Parents need to encourage their kids to take breaks every so often by coming inside or resting in the shade. For every 20 minutes of vigorous exercise make sure your child is drinking 8 ounces of water," said Stirling.
Even when in the swimming pool Stirling says hydration breaks are important.
"The cold pool water will help keep your body cool, but it doesn't replace the fluids that have been lost due to the heat. Make sure your kids are getting out of the pool to drink water and add an extra layer of sunscreen on at the same time," said Stirling.
He says that sports drinks are needed only if a child is involved in vigorous exercise for more than an hour.
"Be careful what your child drinks to rehydrate. Usually, water is the best option. Be sure to stay away from soda which contains the three Cs: carbonation, caffeine and calories. This is not a good combination for hydration," said Stirling.
Though signs of heat exhaustion differ depending on age, the most common are: • Headaches • Nausea • Vomiting • Muscle cramps • Cranky behaviors • Fatigue • Thirst/dry mouth
For infants and young children he suggests monitoring urine output. If your child's urine is a dark yellow color he or she is more than likely dehydrated.
"Another common concern for parents of infants is a skin rash called prickly heat. This happens when pores get blocked by perspiration on the skin and cause an uncomfortable rash. Though it looks bad, the best thing to do is keep the baby's skin dry so the perspiration can evaporate more easily and make sure to keep the baby in lightweight clothing," said Stirling.
According to Stirling lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes are key to keeping kids of all ages cooler on hot summer days.
"What clothes your kids wear really do make a difference," said Stirling.
If you do suspect a child has a heat-related illness: • Get him or her out of the sun and into a shaded area • Ensure he or she is drinking cold water • Place cool towels on the skin • The child should sit in a chair with legs elevated over the level of his or her heart • If needed, provide a sports drink • If the symptoms continue call 911 and seek medical attention
"Heat stroke is a medical emergency. A person's body temperature can rise to 104 degrees. If the child has an altered level of consciousness this is a sign he or she is suffering from heat stroke. Get medical help immediately," said Stirling.
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