Updated May 31st, 2024 at 12:08 IST

How To Protect Kids From The Health Hazards Of Heatwave

Heatwaves pose significant health risks to children, but these can be mitigated with proper precautions.

Protect your kids from the heat wave | Image:Freepik
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Heatwaves can pose significant health risks to children, whose bodies are less able to regulate temperature than adults. Understanding these hazards and knowing how to prevent heatstroke is important for protecting children during hot weather.

Health hazards of heatwaves on kids

Feed your kids hydrating foods in summer | Image: Freepik

Dehydration

Children are more susceptible to dehydration because they have a higher surface area to body mass ratio, which means they lose water faster than adults. Dehydration in children can lead to serious health issues such as kidney problems, seizures, and even shock if not addressed promptly.

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Heat exhaustion

This condition occurs when the body loses excessive amounts of water and salt, usually through sweating. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and fainting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasise that heat exhaustion, if untreated, can progress to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.

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Heatstroke

Heatstroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness and can be fatal. It occurs when the body’s temperature rises above 104°F and the body’s cooling mechanisms fail. The Mayo Clinic states that heat stroke symptoms include a high body temperature, altered mental state, nausea, and a lack of sweating despite the heat. Immediate medical attention is critical to prevent organ damage or death.

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Respiratory issues

Heatwaves can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that high temperatures can increase air pollutants like ozone, which can irritate the airways and worsen asthma symptoms in children.

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Keep your kids indoor | Image: Freepik

How to prevent heatstroke

  • Ensure that children drink plenty of fluids, even if they do not feel thirsty. Water is the best option, but oral rehydration solutions can be beneficial for maintaining electrolyte balance. The AAP recommends frequent hydration breaks, especially during physical activities.
  • Dress children in lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-coloured clothing to help keep their bodies cool. Avoid dark colours, as they absorb more heat.
  • Schedule outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. The CDC advises against strenuous physical activities during peak heat hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Ensure that children have access to shaded areas and use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect their skin from sunburn, which can impair the body’s ability to cool itself.
  • Keep children in cool environments as much as possible. Air conditioning is the best way to cool down, according to the CDC. If your home does not have air conditioning, spend time in public places that do, like libraries or shopping malls.
  • Educate yourself and your children about the signs of heat-related illnesses. Early recognition and prompt action can prevent heat exhaustion from escalating to heatstroke. If a child shows symptoms of heat exhaustion, move them to a cooler place, hydrate them, and apply cool, wet cloths to their skin. If symptoms worsen or do not improve, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Even with windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can rise rapidly and reach dangerous levels. The AAP strongly warns against leaving children in parked cars, as this can lead to fatal heatstroke.
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Published May 29th, 2024 at 13:09 IST