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Children at High Risk for Heat Related Illness

Heat waves are covering the U.S. as we approach the height of summer. With high temperatures, comes an increased risk of heat related illness for all ages. However, the most vulnerable group remains our children. At a young age, children have several qualities that make them more susceptible to suffering from a heat illness.

The biggest factor is communication. A young child does not know how to properly maintain hydration or how to recognize symptoms of a heat stroke or heat exhaustion. They primarily rely on an adult to do these things for them. As an outsider that can be difficult. A child will not ask for a drink of water until they are thirsty. By that time they are already significantly dehydrated. Many times the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke can be difficult to identify. Symptoms can be subtle, such as dry skin, reduced sweating, nausea and fatigue. As a parent, coach, babysitter or anyone watching more than one kid at a time it is extremely difficult to pick these symptoms out of the crowd. Poor communication, difficulty understanding each other is what puts a child at higher risk for heat related illness.

Another factor is biological. A child’s body is still developing, including the part of the body that regulates heat. Kids simply do not sweat as much as adults in the heat. That coupled with their smaller body mass means that they are not releasing as much heat as an adult does, and they are not cooling down as fast. Their higher metabolisms burn through energy faster as well causing the body to be warmer. Children are also slower to acclimatize to (get used to) the heat. They just aren’t ready for extreme temperatures yet. Basically a child’s body is already warm, and it doesn’t cool down very well. Add heat and disaster is bound to ensue.

All of these risk factors might make you want to just keep your kids inside with air conditioning all summer long. Fortunately, this does not have to be the answer. All you need to worry about is properly monitoring your child. Keep track of outside play time, and schedule cool down breaks regularly and frequently. Make sure your little one is getting enough fluids. The proper amount needed is calculated based on weight. It is also good to know that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics one ounce of water is equal to about two kid-sized gulps. So you need to make sure they take two drinks for every ounce of water they need. Finally, know they signs of heat related illness. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to identify if someone around you is suffering. Hot Dots can warn you when the body temperature reaches a possibly unsafe level, but other symptoms let you know the health of your child.  

Together, we can keep your loved ones safe this summer. Know they signs and beat the heat.

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