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Heat Illness and Summer

Heatwave hot sun. Climate Change. GHot Sun and Thermometer high temperatures.

As summer approaches and the number of hot days increases, you have to pay attention to the temperature gauge and how long your kids are out playing in the sun. Heat illness kills hundreds of Americans every year, and it is the number one weather-related killer. Also, heatstroke is the top cause of exercise-related deaths among high school students.  The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) offers information and guidelines for parents and coaches on their web site.

But that doesn’t mean you should keep the kids indoors during the summer. There are steps you can take to reduce the chances of getting heat illness – and most of it just plain common sense.

What you can do

Preventing heat illness among young children and teens is difficult because they often do not recognize the symptoms.

But there are steps you can take to protect them when they are outside in the summer:

  • If it’s extremely hot outside, the kids should stay inside or plan your activities around cooler times of the day, like before 10 am and after 4 pm.
  • If your child is an athlete, counsel them not to push through when they are having a hard time in the heat or if they are getting thirsty. The days of playing tough when it’s hot are over, after countless teens have died on the football field in the months of August and September.
  • Dress in lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more, and apply this every hour.
  • Take water breaks every 15 or 20 minutes. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, such as water or an electrolyte-enhanced drink like Gatorade.
  • Take frequent rest breaks in a cool and shady area.

Also, if you have a child who is on prescription drugs or has some type of chronic condition, talk to your doctor about them playing outdoors.

Recognizing heat illness

  • Heat cramps~ Heat cramps are the first stage of heat illness.
    • Symptoms include:
      • muscle pain
      • muscle tightness
    • What to do:
      • Move to a cooler area, out of direct sunlight.
      • Gently massage the cramping muscle.
      • Stretch the muscle gently.
      • Drink cool water or sports drinks every 15 minutes.
  • Heat exhaustion~
    • Symptoms include:
      • Muscle cramps
      • Dizziness
      • Mild confusion
      • Fast heart rate or breathing
      • Headache
      • Extreme thirst
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Pale skin
      • Heavy sweating
      • Fainting
    • What to do:
      • Move to a cooler area, out of direct sunlight.
      • Loosen clothing.
      • Apply cool, wet towels to your face, neck, chest and limbs
      • Have someone fan your skin.
      • Drink cool water or sports drinks every 15 minutes
      • Don’t drink too quickly.
  • Heatstroke
    • Symptoms include:
      • all the symptoms of heat exhaustion may be present, plus
      • Body temperature over 104°F
      • Irrational behavior or hallucinations
      • Confusion
      • Rapid, shallow breathing
      • Rapid, weak pulse
      • Seizures
      • Loss of consciousness
      • Dry skin
    • What to do: Call 911 or take the person to the emergency room immediately, and:
      • Move the person to a cooler area, out of direct sunlight.
      • Loosen clothing.
      • Remove any sweaty clothing.
      • Apply cool, wet towels to the face, neck, chest and limbs.
      • Apply ice, if you have it, to the underarms, wrists and groin.
      • Fan the person’s skin.
      • Offer cool water or sports drinks every 15 minutes if the person is conscious.
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