Camp is in session and many of the summer programs are centered around outdoor sports! We put our trust in the counselors to ensure that they are protecting our children from the dangers of the heat and sun. However, it is our responsibility to not only educate ourselves about heat related illnesses but teach our children how to stay safe while outdoors in the heat. In addition to camp, schools start to train their athletes for the fall season during the hot summer months. It is during this time, we start to see a surge of children in the emergency room suffering from heat related illness. Although the symptoms are progressive, they can often occur abruptly. So today we are going to talk about the different heat related illnesses and how to protect our children.
Heat cramps are brief, painful muscle cramps in the legs, arms, or abdomen that may occur during or after exercise in extreme heat. It isn’t dangerous but a painful sign that it is time to hydrate and cool off.
Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke and is a direct result of the body overheating. It causes symptoms which include increased thirst, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, irritability, headache, increase sweating, and fainting. If your child is having any of these symptoms, you need to take them immediately indoors, take off their clothes, place cool clothes on their body, encourage fluids with salt or sugar (Gatorade), and call your doctor.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous form of heat illness and is a medical emergency. We typically see this life threatening illness with elderly people and athletes that ignore the symptoms of milder heat related illness such as cramps, vomiting, or fainting. Heat stroke results from a combination of prolonged exposure to high temperatures and dehydration. It is defined by a core body temperature of over 105 degrees with involvement of the central nervous system. Individuals with heat stroke, may have symptoms similar to heat exhaustion, but will start to experience confusion, disorientation, seizures, loss of consciousness, and possible coma. In addition, they will also stop sweating despite the heat. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately!
Sun poisoning is a sunburn that forms large painful blisters on your body along with symptoms of fever, chills, nausea, headache, and signs of dehydration. Sunscreen is imperative. Wear a sunscreen that has at least 30 SPF and apply it about 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Reapply sunscreen at least every 1.5 hours and after you have been in the water. Wear protective clothing and limited sun exposure.
How do we prevent these illnesses from occurring? Hydration, hydration, hydration. Children are easy distracted and can quickly become dehydrated if not adequately hydrating. It is recommended that a child drinks 5 to 9 ounces of water (10 to 18 “gulps”) every 20 minutes during activity depending on weight (teenagers should drink more). Younger children should be given water bottles with marks on the sides showing how much they should drink or be told how many “gulps” to drink. The best type of fluids are ones that have sugar and salt to replenish electrolytes. Do not rely on coaches or counselors to ensure proper fluid intake. Make sure your child knows that he or she needs to be drinking from their water bottle every 20 to 30 minutes, especially if participating in sports or training. Explain to them the importance of listening to their body and that it is okay to take a break if they are feeling tired, hot or thirsty.
See you next Wednesday!