Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion: Keeping Your Kids Safe During the Summer
Already this summer, the Emergency Department at Cook Children’s has treated kids for heat-related illnesses. And that’s before things really heat up as we head into the warmest months of the year.
The National Weather Service in Fort Worth has issued a heat advisory from 1 p.m. Tuesday through 8 p.m. Wednesday. According to the Star-Telegram, it could feel as hot as 111 degrees in parts of our region.
The range of the heat-related incidents seen at the ER has included children left in hot cars to kids being treated for heat exhaustion after working out.
"As the outside temperature rises, your family's risk of heat stroke rises right along with it," Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services, said. "On 100-degree days, it's best to stay inside when it gets that hot. If temperatures exceed 90 degrees, stay in the shade and keep an extra eye on the kids."
Children today are spending increasing amounts of time in air conditioned environments, lured indoors by the constant upkeep of social media accounts and online gaming. Studies show the average American child spends 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, compared to more than 7 hours a day in front of a screen.
"The more you're out in the heat, the more your body gets used to it, or 'acclimatizes,'" Dr. Warmink said. "Children who are always inside are more prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke than those who are frequently outdoors and active."
Play it cool
But don't mistake what Dr. Warmink is saying. Too much time out in the heat can cause heat-related illnessess such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Lack of acclimatization has led to an uptick in heat illness among children in recent years, according to Dr. Warmink. Most incidents occur during the first two weeks of school athletics training when kids begin cross country, football, cheerleading or band practice.
"More is being demanded of young athletes during the late summer months," Dr. Warmink said. "Kids who spend all summer indoors and then go out for training in August are setting themselves up for heat illness."
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include flu-like symptoms such as:
- Heavy sweating
- Weakness or fainting
- Cold, pale and clammy skin
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting or muscle cramps
To treat heat exhaustion: get to an air conditioned place, drink water and take a cool shower.
Signs of heatstroke include hot, red and dry skin, as well as:
- Rapid heart rate
- Decreased or no sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased urination
- Increased body temperature (104 to 106 degress Farenheight)
If you expect your child is having a heat stroke, call 911 and take immediate action to cool him or her off.
Kids In Hot Cars
As of July 5, 2019, four Texas children have died after being left in a car. All four Texas deaths occurred in a 13-day span, beginning June 20, 2019. Accoding to noheastroke.org, the total number of pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths in the United States is 18.
To reduce the number of child vehicular heatstroke deaths, the Texas Heatstroke Task Force reminds parents to remember to ACT:
Avoid heatstroke-related injury by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Always lock your doors and trunks— including in your driveway or garage. If a child goes missing, check the pool first, and then check the vehicles, including trunks.
Create reminders. Routinely place something you'll need at your next stop—like a purse, briefcase or cellphone—in the backseat.
Take Action. If you see a child alone in a car, take action. Call 911.