The long summer months are great for spending time outdoors. Your kids love spending time outside playing games, swimming, or having picnics in the park. However, if your child spends too long in the sun without proper sun protection or doesn’t drink enough water, they are at increased risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
In this blog, we will explore the differences between heat stroke and heat exhaustion in kids and how you can protect your child while they enjoy the long summer days with family and friends.
What causes heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
The summer usually sees an increase in temperatures and humidity. With warmer weather, kids will want to play or get involved in sports. This combination can cause the body to overheat, leading to heat illnesses, especially if they are not adequately hydrated.
The risk factors can increase if your child is overweight, taking certain medicines, or already has a sunburn.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
If your child has spent too long in the sun, they may show signs of heat exhaustion, such as:
- An elevated body temperature
- A headache
- Muscle cramps in arms, legs, and stomach
- Increased thirst
- Heavy sweating
In most cases, bringing children inside and giving them fluids will help them to cool down.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
When a child has heat stroke, they cannot regulate their body temperature. This requires urgent medical attention. The child will have a very high body temperature, above 104°F.
Other potential symptoms include:
- Absence of sweating
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
- Severe headache
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Loss of consciousness
What To Do if Your Child Shows Signs of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
If your child is showing signs of heat exhaustion, immediately help them cool down and avoid it escalating to heat stroke.
- Move them inside or to cooler, shaded areas such as under trees or a canopy.
- Get the child to lie down and slightly raise their feet.
- Give them plenty of water to help them rehydrate.
- Cool their skin with cool water or cold compresses. You can also fan them to allow them to cool down.
In most cases, your child will usually cool down to their average body temperature within 30 minutes, but if their symptoms don’t improve or worsen, seek urgent medical attention.
Ways To Prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke in Kids
The good news is you can do many things to protect your kids against heat exhaustion.
When kids are having fun, the last thing they are probably thinking about is drinking, but kids lose a lot of water through sweat when running or playing sports. This can lead to dehydration, putting them at greater risk of heat exhaustion risk.
Always ensure that they drink lots of water throughout the warm days, especially during or after any form of exercise. Teach kids to always drink water, even if they are not thirsty.
Staying out of direct sunshine during the hottest times of the day is always a good idea. If they are going to eat or rest, look for shaded areas.
It also helps if they wear light-colored and loose clothing to minimize the amount they sweat when they are outside.
Wearing sunscreen and hats can protect their skin from UV rays that cause sunburn. If your child’s skin looks red after being outside, have them drink plenty of fluids, as sunburn can cause dehydration.
Minimise Activity at the Hottest Times of the Day
Avoid playing sports or strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day. Doing these activities in the early morning or evening is better. However, if your kids are outside during the warmer parts of the day, teach them to come indoors if they feel warm and to make sure they drink lots of water while outside.
Prevention Is the Best Defense
Following the steps in this blog will ensure that you minimize the risk of your child suffering from sunburn, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
If you need any advice or you are worried that your child might be suffering adverse effects from being outside, please give us a call today to speak to one of our board-certified pediatricians in Arvada.