Child Health, Nutrition and Fitness, Your Health | 7 years ago

Ask a Doc: How to Prevent Heat related Illnesses in Kids

Ask a Doc: How to Prevent Heat related Illnesses in Kids

During the summer, there is a very important hazard kids to avoid: heat-related illness. This term includes a spectrum of illness, from mild to severe symptoms that, when taken to the most extreme, can even result in death. However, with appropriate planning, the majority of these heat-related illness can be prevented. So, what can we do to help prevent our children from suffering from any aspect of the heat-related illness spectrum? Sean M. Fox, MD has provided his "keep cool" tips!

1) Don’t get overheated

  • Makes sense, but often requires some effort.
  • Schedule events during cooler hours of the days.
  • Arrange to be back in cooler environments during the hottest times.
  • Taking frequent breaks can also be helpful.

2) Start drinking fluids before the activity

Unfortunately, if children start an activity dehydrated, they are going to have a hard time becoming adequately hydrated.

3) Drink often during the activity

  • It is important to drink even if “not thirsty.”During organized sports, this can be a coordinated effort.
  • When children are playing outside, they often require some reminding.
  • Drinking eight to 16 ounces of fluid (water or an appropriate sports drink) every 20 minutes has been recommended. Avoid caffeinated beverages. Excessively sugary drinks (like sodas) are also not recommended.

4) Weight it out

  • The most ideal measure of dehydration is body weight.
  • Knowing pre-activity weight and post-activity weight can give an indication of the actual amount of water that has been lost.
  • Significant dehydration is noted when someone has lost 3 percent of their original weight.

5) Strategize to reduce risk

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published guidelines to be used by organized sports groups.
They outline the above strategies, plus:

  • Ease in to exposure to warmer weather. This may take up to two weeks.
  • There should be unrestricted access to fluids during activities.

6) Monitor for early symptoms

Early stages of heat-related illness often have minor symptoms that may be under appreciated or overlooked.
Look for:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Excessive fatigue and weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Passing out

While these strategies can help prevent heat-related illness for most children, there are special groups of kids who are at even greater risk than the rest. The very young (infants and toddlers) are particularly susceptible to heat illness, for a variety of reasons, but most importantly because they are dependent upon adults to ensure they are in appropriate environments. “Additionally, those with chronic medical problems may take medications or have conditions that prevent them from adequately acclimating to the hot environments. These issues need to be considered when planning activities during the hot summer days,” Dr. Fox says. “With some planning and appreciation of the potential hazards that exist, hopefully, we will all have an enjoyable summer and you will avoid having to go see me or my colleagues in the emergency department.”  

Dr. Fox is a physician specializing in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Carolinas Medical Center and Levine Children's Hospital