Most children look forward to the summer months when they can finally spend time outside enjoying their favorite activities such as playing Frisbee at the park or participating in outdoor athletic activities. During the late summer months, as school approaches, many teens also participate in rigorous sports training camps to prepare for the fall sports season.
Invariably, summer also seems to bring stories about children or teens becoming overheated and experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These conditions can have serious consequences if prompt medical attention is not received. To help keep your kids safe this summer, our experts at Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics have gathered key information you need to know about heat-induced conditions.
Signs and symptoms of heat stroke in children
Older kids are better able to communicate when they don’t feel well. This makes it easier to intervene in a case of heat stroke. A child or teen experiencing heat stroke may complain of symptoms such as a racing heart, headache, flushed skin and rapid, shallow breathing. Some may feel nauseous or vomit. Some kids become agitated or experience confusion or slurred speech. In severe cases, a child could experience a seizure or a coma.
Babies and toddlers
It’s more difficult to determine if a younger child is suffering from heat stroke because babies and toddlers can’t express how they’re feeling. Parents need to look for signs in their children such as red, hot, dry skin, a lack of sweating despite the heat, rapid or shallow breathing, vomiting, fainting, staggering and seizures. Dark-colored urine may be a sign of heat exhaustion, which is essentially a precursor to heat stroke.
What to do in case of heat stroke
It’s important to treat heat stroke seriously because, if left untreated, it can lead to death. If you suspect your child may be suffering from heat stroke, you should immediately call 911. While you’re waiting for the ambulance to arrive, there are a few things you can do to help mitigate the situation.
First, move your child to a cooler spot if possible. If you’re outdoors and can’t get to an air-conditioned vehicle or building, try to find a shaded area. Remove as much of their clothing as possible. If available, use a napkin or a cloth to sponge your child with water, especially around their neck, back, armpits and groin areas. Do not use ice-cold water or ice cubes. If you have a piece of paper, a magazine or a piece of cloth, use it as a fan to circulate the air around your child.
How to prevent heat stroke
Take proactive steps to prevent this potentially life-threatening condition. When outdoor temperatures begin to soar, keep babies and toddlers away from extreme temperatures as much as possible. Be mindful that, the younger the child, the less their sweat glands can adequately control their body temperature.
Children and teens competing in sports often forget to stop and rehydrate. Educate older kids on the importance of staying well-hydrated. Let your children know that if they don’t feel well, they need to tell an adult rather than attempting to “power through” symptoms of headache or nausea.
Other tips include dressing children in lightweight, lightly colored and loose-fitting cotton clothes during the hot summer months. Younger children should be encouraged to wear a hat, preferably one with a large brim. Make sure that plenty of water is available whenever engaging in outdoor activities. If a teen will be participating in strenuous outdoor physical activities, select water options that include electrolytes.
For babies, be particularly mindful during diaper changes. If dark urine is noted, seek immediate medical attention as this could be a sign of heat exhaustion, which can quickly lead to heat stroke.
At Bard and Didriksen Pediatrics, we want our patients and their families to safely enjoy the outdoor activities available during the summer. We encourage parents to take proactive steps to ensure their children are playing or training the right way during the hottest months of the year.
Provide children with seasonally appropriate clothing and make sure they stay hydrated so they will be better physically equipped to handle high temperatures. Teach kids the signs they should look out for so that if something should occur, they’re more likely to reach out to an adult for help.
If you’d like to know more about our comprehensive medical services for babies, children and adolescents throughout the Glen Carbon and Edwardsville areas, please contact us.