Temperatures are heating up across the globe (hello, climate change!).
High temperatures can cause children to become sick with heat exhaustion, dehydration, and in severe cases: heat stroke.
Let’s go over some terminology:
Heat exhaustion occurs in children without proper hydration and rest in heat and can occur in many warm temperatures. Heat waves can make it worse.
Signs of heat exhaustion include one or a combination of all these symptoms:
- An elevated body temperature between 100-104
- Feeling cool and clammy despite being in the heat
- Fainting, looking out of it, dizzy, weak, or a verbal child reporting being light-headed
- Increased sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
Extra caution should be taken with infants. An infant or a non-verbal child will not express discomfort so watch for irritability, vomiting, a rapid heart rate, and listless (getting very quiet from baseline, distant, not their normal interactive level).
Many of these symptoms can be associated with a virus as well, but it is really important to monitor these symptoms.
If you notice any of the signs mentioned above:
- Bring them into a cool shaded place (air-conditioned vehicle or building is preferred)
- Give them liquids (check out this blog for signs of dehydration and tips for rehydration)
- Apply cool towels on the back of their neck and forehead
- Monitor the symptoms closely. If hydration and the cooler environment do not help their symptoms, they will not drink anything, or they are not alert at their baseline, seek medical attention.
If a child is experiencing heat exhaustion for a prolonged period of time, they can experience a heat stroke.
A heat stroke is a severe situation where a person’s body temperatures rises so quickly and is unable to cool itself down leading to damage to the brain and other organs (an unfortunate example is a child left in a hot car).
Signs of a heat stroke include:
- Confusion, altered mental status, or slurred speech. Think: a child who is incoherent or not interacting with you at their baseline developmental level
- Loss of consciousness (not responding to you)
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- An extremely high body temperature of over 105
A Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal. Make sure you are keeping a close eye for heat exhaustion so heat stroke isn’t even a possibility.
You can prevent heat exhaustion and subsequent heat stroke by:
- Planning outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day (before 9am or after 5pm). If you’re hot, they’re probably too hot too! Check out this blog for indoor activities for your kid in inclement weather (extreme heat, rain, or snow).
- Always try to aim for playing in the shade versus the direct sun.
- Make sure to take water breaks and breaks in the shade if playing in the sun.
- Keep them hydrated:
- For a breastfed or formula-fed infant, also make sure you keep them hydrated with their usual form of nutrition. Stay on top of hydration before the dehydration gets on top of them!
- For older children, give them their normal liquids to PREVENT dehydration: water is wonderful. Ice chips are also an option. Remember, ice cubes can be a choking hazard for toddlers, so stick to crushed ice or ice chips.
- Choose loose-fitting, light-colored, and breathable clothing.
- Monitor the signs mentioned above