is the time of year for playing in the backyard, going to the beach, and being active in the beautiful, sunny weather. However, all this running and physical activity in the heat of the day can put children, and adults, at risk for heat stroke and other types of related complications.
Heat stroke is not just a slight problem; it can be extremely harmful and even fatal if not treated immediately once it reaches a severe stage. The good news is that parents can teach their children to recognize when they are getting too warm and take the right steps to cool them off so they can enjoy the rest of the day.
The earliest signs of heat stroke, sometimes known as heat exhaustion, include symptoms such as:
- Weakness, fatigue and muscle cramps
- Feelings or nausea or even vomiting
- Dizziness and headaches
If the child is not cooled off at this point the symptoms progress to full heat stroke and include:
- Elevated body temperature
- Hot dry skin
- Lack of sweat production
- Rapid pulse
- Difficulty in breathing
- Agitation and confusion.
To ensure that your child avoids heat exhaustion or the more serious heat stroke:
- Always ensure that children bring water with them and hydrate regularly throughout the activity. Children should be limited to water or sports drinks but should not have sodas, energy drinks or drinks containing caffeine.
- Have your child wear a hat to help keep direct sun off of their head. Also wear light colored, loose fitting clothing to allow perspiration to evaporate and cool the body.
- Limit any intensive activities or competitive events during the hottest parts of the day or when humidity levels are high.
- Encourage children to choose games that can be played in shady areas of the yard or playground area.
- Remember that sunscreen, although it may feel cool when applied, does not protect children from the heating effects of the sun.
Last, and most important, parents and caregivers must ensure that no child is ever left alone in a car. Even on a cool day, a car can quickly heat up in the sun, sometimes reaching unsafe temperatures in as little as five minutes. Another way to avoid this is to ensure that your vehicle is locked whenever it is not being used, ensuring that children cannot get inside and become trapped. The greatest cause of injury and death due to heat stroke is related to children being left in vehicles, sometimes resulting in a tragedy that could have been prevented.