Summertime and the living is easy…unless you’re like me and worry about not letting family overheat in all this warm weather we’re having.
Given this run of very warm and more specifically humid weather, heat related illnesses are on the rise. From heat rash and cramps, to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the warm and humid weather can cause all sorts of medical issues.
The body’s main method for regulating body temperature is through evaporation, which becomes difficult when the humidity in the environment exceeds 75% because it is more difficult for the sweat to evaporate and dissipate the body’s heat. Children, specifically infants and young athletes, are at higher risk for heat related illnesses as compared to adults due to differences in their anatomies and how they respond to heat related stress.
Common Forms of Heat Illness
- Heat Rash: Itchy, red rash common in infants in warm environments. Resolves without specific treatment when placed in a cooler environment.
- Heat Cramps: Painful muscle cramps either during or after exertion and usually in the larger muscle groups. Can be alleviated through hydration to replace electrolyte losses, rest and stretching.
- Heat Exhaustion: Elevated core body temperature associated with nausea/vomiting, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, weakness and severe thirst.
- Heat Stroke: Similar symptoms as heat exhaustion but with change in the child’s mental status (acting confused, unresponsive or passing out).
All of this doesn’t mean that your children need to stay inside on warm summer days.
How to Stay Safe on Humid Days
- Have kids wear summer-appropriate clothing, such as absorbent, loose fitting clothing to help maximize heat loss.
- Help children maintain adequate hydration with scheduled water breaks to replenish fluid loss during exercise and play. Generally children should have 4-5 ounces every 20-30 minutes and adolescents should have up to 1 liter per hour during activity. Adding flavoring with carbohydrates can increase fluid intake by as much as 90%.
- Restrict activity by decreasing organized athletic activities when the heat index is high.
- Following activity, complete rest and a cool down period will also reduce the risk of heat related illness.
- Children who are currently sick or recovering from an illness should avoid or limit their exercise during these times.
As in most cases, prevention is the key in dealing with heat related illnesses. Ensuring adequate hydration and frequent breaks to allow children and adolescents to cool down will help keep everyone safe this summer season. As always, we here at ABC Pediatrics are here if you have any questions!