Editor’s Note: Keeping you in the know so that you can keep them cool! We’re bringing up some important parenting pointers for the summer scorchers!
With much of the nation in the grip of a heat wave and severe drought [Hello, California!], it is of utmost importance that parents and caregivers know how to protect children from heat-related illnesses and can recognize the symptoms of a heat-disorder in order to provide first aid.
By P. Humbargar
According to the CDC, during the years 1979-2003, there were 8,015 deaths from heat exposure. This was more than the deaths from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. Just a few years ago, heat-related deaths were being reported daily in many states. Extreme heat is not something to be taken lightly!
Infants and very young children are among those most vulnerable to the heat, but all children and even healthy adults can become sick if they participate in strenuous activity during hot weather.
Preventative steps to help children and ourselves avoid succumbing to the heat include the following:
- Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor. If you don’t have AC, spend time in public facilities like malls, libraries, and heat relief shelters.
- Drink plenty of fluids, regardless of your activity level. Avoid alcoholic and sugary drinks, as they cause the body to lose more fluid; and avoid very cold drinks, as they can cause stomach cramps.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing, and apply sunscreen often—at least 30 minutes before going out.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats, and protect small children with umbrellas.
- Try to schedule activities in the morning or evening, and rest in shady areas often.
- Pace yourselves, especially if you are not accustomed to the heat.
- At home, if you don’t have AC, take cool showers or baths, use fans, and try not to use the oven/stove.
- Avoid hot foods and heavy meals, as they add heat to the body.
- Never leave kids in cars. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature can rise by 20 degrees within 10 minutes.
- Check on friends and neighbors, and have them do the same for you; follow the local news for heat safety updates.
Symptoms of heat-related illnesses and treatment to provide
Heat Stroke: This is the most dangerous heat disorder and can cause permanent disability and even death. If suspected, call for emergency medical assistance immediately!
Warning signs of heat stroke include:
- Extremely high body temperature—above 103 degrees F
- Red, hot, dry skin, with no sweating
- Rapid strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
After calling for emergency medical help, do the following: get the victim to a shady area, and cool with water in whatever way you can—hoses, sprays, sponges, etc. Do not give fluids to drink. If the victim is vomiting, turn onto the side to keep the airway open. If the victim begins to twitch, keep said victim from any possible attempts at self-harm and do not put anything into the mouth. Stay on the line with emergency personnel for further instructions until help arrives.
Heat exhaustion: This is a milder form of heat-related illness, but if left untreated can progress to heat stroke.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cool moist skin
- Fast weak pulse
- Fast shallow breathing
If symptoms are severe or if the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure, seek medical attention immediately. Otherwise, help the victim to cool off. Possible cooling methods include: getting into an air-conditioned building to rest, if possible; providing cool, nonalcoholic fluids; showering or bathing in cool water; and changing into loose, lightweight clothing. If symptoms don’t improve or worsen after employing cooling methods, seek medical help.
If you have any tips on how you and your kids are staying cool this summer, please share them in the comments!