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Protect Against Heat-Related Illness and Dehydration

2:00

Think it’s hot where you are? Try spending a few minutes outside in the southwest part of the country. This year, several cities have already set records of the longest stretch of time with temperatures 115 degrees and higher, and we’re only half way through the summer.

Your family’s area may not be experiencing those kinds of extreme temperatures, but it doesn’t have to be that hot for a child to end up with a heat-related illness or dehydration when out of doors.

Kids are particularly vulnerable because a child's body surface area makes up a much greater proportion of his overall weight than an adult's, which means children face a much greater risk of dehydration and heat-related illness.

Longer daylight hours often means kids spend more time in the sun so it’s important to make sure your child doesn’t become dehydrated or over-heated.

The early signs of dehydration can include fatigue, thirst, dry lips and tongue, lack of energy, and feeling overheated. But if kids wait to drink until they feel thirsty, they're already dehydrated. Thirst doesn't really kick in until a child has lost 2% of his or her body weight as sweat.

Dehydration can cause three of the worse types of heat-related illnesses:

Heat cramps: Painful cramps of the abdominal muscles, arms or legs.

Heat Exhaustion: Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, muscle pain and sometimes unconsciousness.

Heat stroke: A child with heat stroke can have a temperature of 104 degrees or higher. Severe symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, seizures and disorientation or delirium can occur as well as a lack of sweating, shortness of breath, unconsciousness and even coma.

Any one of these heat-related illnesses requires immediate medical attention.

To prevent dehydration make sure your child drinks plenty of cool water and often. They should be hydrated before play and during – even if they tell you they are not thirsty. A good size drink for a child, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is 5 ounces of cold tap water for a child weighing 88 pounds, and nine ounces for a teen weighing 132 pounds. One ounce is about two kid-size gulps.

Dehydration can be a tricky thing to catch early. It is typically cumulative – meaning that it may take several days to reach a dangerous point.  If your child is 1% or 2% dehydrated on Monday and doesn't drink enough fluids that night, then gets 1% or 2% dehydrated again on Tuesday, that means your child is 3% or 4% dehydrated at the end of the day. "They may be gradually developing a problem, but it won't show up for several days," says Albert C. Hergenroeder, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of the sports medicine clinic at Texas Children's Hospital.

One way to monitor your child’s hydration is to weigh him or her before and after a sport’s practice or game or playing outside. If his weight drops, he's not drinking enough during his workout.

A simple rule of thumb: if your child's urine is dark in color, rather than clear or light yellow, he or she may be becoming dehydrated.

If you suspect your child is getting over-heated, get him or her out of the sun and into a cooler place. Have the child start drinking plenty of cool fluids. The child should also take off any excess layers of clothing or bulky equipment. You can put cool, wet cloths on overheated skin. In cases of heat cramps, gentle stretches to the affected muscle should relieve the pain.

Kids with heat exhaustion should be treated in the same way but should not be allowed back on the field the same day. Monitor your child even more carefully, Hergenroeder says.

If your child doesn't improve, or can't take fluids, see a doctor.

Some children are going to be more prone to heat-related illness. The biggest risk is a previous episode of dehydration or heat illness. Other factors that can put your child at greater risk for heat illness include obesity, recent illness (especially if the child has been vomiting or has had diarrhea), and use of antihistamines or diuretics.

If a child has been indoors most of the summer, they may not have had a chance to adjust to the hotter weather. Kids should add a little more time out of doors each day until they acclimate to the heat. However, with some of the high temperatures we’re having, it’s best to schedule activities in the morning. It can still be 90 degrees with a humidity index of 107 at 9:00 pm in some places.

In a smart move, a growing number of athletic programs suggest that it is sometimes too hot to practice. In fact, many are restricting outdoors practice when the National Weather Service's heat index rises above a certain temperature. The heat index, measured in degrees Fahrenheit, is an accurate measure of how hot it really feels when the relative humidity is added to the actual temperature.

Kids need time out of doors and certainly time to play and have adventures. Parents can help keep their children from experiencing heat-related illnesses by making sure their child is hydrated and not spending too much time out of doors when the temperature or humidity index is high.

Story source: Roy Benaroch ,MD, http://www.webmd.com/children/dehydration-heat-illness#1

 

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