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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 7:43 EDT

Keep A Close Watch On Children In The Heat

June 30, 2009

With record-breaking heat and humidity, parents, coaches and caregivers should keep a close watch on children for early warning signs of heat-related illnesses, said a Baylor College of Medicine (www.bcm.edu) pediatrician.

“Heat plus humidity increases everyone’s chance of developing heat exhaustion or stroke, especially in active children and athletes spending time outdoors,” said Dr. Sara Rizvi, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM and a pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital (www.texaschildrens.org). “Young children may not recognize warning signs of these illnesses themselves and may not drink enough water without frequent adult supervision.”

EARLY WARNING SIGNS AND PREVENTION

There are early warning signs of heat stroke and exhaustion that parents can be on the watch for, Rizvi said.

These signs include:

-Weakness

-Fatigue

-Dizziness

-Cramps

-Hot and dry skin

-Rapid pulse

-Confusion

FLUID INTAKE IS IMPORTANT

“Most people think of thirst first, but it is a late sign,” said Rizvi. “When playing outside, children should keep drinking water at regular intervals to ward off dehydration even if they are not thirsty.”

The type of fluid you give your child is important, Rizvi emphasized.

“It should be water, but if it is hard to get your child to take water then adding a splash of juice may be helpful,” said Rizvi. “Sodas, tea, coffee and other caffeinated beverages are not hydrating. The caffeine may actually make dehydration worse.”

AVOID PROLONGED EXPOSURE

Another important tip is to avoid prolonged exposure during a heat wave, Rizvi said.

“Limit strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” said Rizvi. “It helps limit overexposure to both the sun and the heat.”

HEAT EXHAUSTION COULD BECOME HEAT STROKE

While both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious, heat stroke is critically serious and occurs when heat exhaustion goes untreated, Rizvi said.

“The patient is hot and sweaty with a weak, rapid pulse when heat exhausted,” said Rizvi. “Heat stroke patients will be hot and dry with altered levels of consciousness.”

In the event of heat exhaustion, parents, coaches and other caregivers can help the child cool off by sitting or lying down in a cool air-conditioned environment, Rizvi said.

“Remove restrictive clothing, give cool, non-caffeinated beverages to drink and place cool towels on the neck, abdomen and face,” said Rizvi. “You can also try a cool bath to reduce temperature.”

Parents should seek immediate medical attention if their child’s heat exhaustion becomes severe and affects his or her level of consciousness, if they have heart disease or blood pressure problems or any severe symptoms, such as abdominal pain or cramps lasting longer than one hour, Rizvi said.

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