Between 2006 and 2010, more than 3,000 people died from heat-related illnesses according to UptoDate.
Taking appropriate precautions and having heat awareness can make all the difference in keeping you and your family safe.
One important precaution: Always check for children and pets in the car and do not leave them unattended in the car. Even when temperatures outside are only moderately high, such as 81 degrees F, temperatures inside a car can rise rapidly to dangerous levels in only a few minutes.
Knowing the heat index and how to modify activities appropriately based on the heat index is extremely helpful for preventing heat illness in athletes of all ages. When the heat index is between 80-90 degrees F, activities do not have to be restricted but watch for signs of heat illness (discussed below). For heat indices between 91-104 degrees F, activities should be rescheduled to cooler parts of the day.
Rest and hydration breaks should be increased and more frequent substitutions of players should occur as well. In addition, when the heat index is between 104-125 degrees F, activities should be restricted for children who are not used to high heat conditions and children with diabetes, fever, GI disease, burns, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, sickle cell trait or disease, or hyperthyroidism. If the heat index is 126 degrees F or higher, organized athletic activities should be canceled.
Tips for Staying Cool
Children ages 9-12 years old should drink 3-8 ounces of water every 20 minutes and children 13 and older should drink 1-1.5 liters of water per hour during activity. Flavoring the water can increase children’s intake by up to 90 percent. Wearing a single layer of light-colored, absorbent, loose-fitting clothing is also recommended.
Know the Warning Signs
Recognizing symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke is also crucial. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion in someone who has been exposed to heat and has a core body temperature between 98.6 and 104 degrees F include:
- increased heart rate
- fatigue or weakness
- fainting with a rapid return to normal awake state
- extreme thirst
- mild confusion
- signs of dehydration (decreased urine output, dry mouth, not making tears, irritability, tenting of the skin when pinched)
If symptoms of heat exhaustion are present, any activity should be stopped immediately and the child should be taken to a cool environment (shade or air conditioning), have excess clothing removed, and be given a chilled sports drink. Most children who have mild heat exhaustion will recover with these actions and will not require additional treatment. If they do not respond to these actions or have dehydration or a change in their level of consciousness/awareness, they should be taken to the hospital.
What is Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is impairment/abnormalities in nervous system function in individuals who have been exposed to heat and have a core body temperature of 104 degrees F or higher. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke overlap, but if the child is having neurological symptoms or has loss of consciousness, he or she should be considered to have heat stroke and needs to go the hospital.
Neurological symptoms can include impaired judgment, inappropriate behavior, seizure, hallucinations, difficulty or change in walking, difficulty or change in speaking, and coma. Measures which can be taken to help with cooling before the ambulance arrives, in addition to those used for heat exhaustion, include immersing the child in an ice water bath (if personnel and equipment are available), spraying with water, fanning, and applying ice packs to the neck, armpits, and groin.
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About Dr. Kandace Bass
This is the 8th in the healthcare series from Mercy Des Moines. Find the rest of the posts below: