Heat is called a “silent killer” because you can’t see it but it can quickly turn deadly.
Our bodies are accustomed to a cozy temperature range of around 36 to 37 degrees Celsius (97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit). When the mercury rises above this level, our bodies start sweating to keep cool. But here’s the catch: the hotter it gets, the tougher it is for us to cool down, especially in those humid conditions when our sweat refuses to evaporate like it’s playing hide-and-seek.
Now, let’s talk about the villains of the story: heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is like an annoying neighbor, bringing along dizziness, nausea, and headaches when your body overheats. But watch out, because heat stroke is the supervillain of the heat world. It strikes when your body temperature skyrockets to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) or higher. Left untreated, it can wreak havoc on your organs or even bring you face-to-face with the Grim Reaper.
As the plot thickens, the number of heat-related illnesses among children is on the rise. This can be attributed to various factors, including climate change, the growing prevalence of childhood obesity, and the increasing participation of children in outdoor activities.
Certain regions become the playgrounds for heat-related illnesses, with the southern and southwestern United States, along with the Gulf Coast, taking center stage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an average of 618 annual deaths in the United States due to heat-related illnesses between 1999 and 2010.
Now, let’s take a stroll through the stages of heat-related illness in children. First up, we have heat cramps. They’re like the hiccups of heat-related illness, causing muscle cramps that like to make themselves at home in your legs or abdomen. Then we have heat exhaustion, a more serious troublemaker. It comes with a sweaty performance, pale skin, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even a bit of vomiting. But the grand finale is heat stroke, the superstar of heat-related illness. It brings a scorching body temperature (often over 104 degrees Fahrenheit), skin as dry as a desert, confusion, seizures, and even a surprise appearance by the coma squad.
So, what causes this heat havoc among kids? Well, hot weather takes the cake! When it’s sizzling outside, our bodies work overtime to keep cool. And let’s not forget about the energetic adventurers who find themselves playing a part in this story. Physical exertion or playtime can raise the body’s temperature and make cooling down a challenging task. Dehydration is also on the list. Remember, water is the superhero that saves the day by cooling us down. But there are some sneaky accomplices as well, like certain medications that increase the risk of heat-related illness by causing fluid loss. Oh, and those troublemaker medical conditions like heart disease and obesity—they make the heat drama even more intense.
Actions and precautions to take:
- The most important thing to do is to cool the child down as quickly as possible. This can be done by taking the child to a cool place, giving the child cool fluids to drink, and sponging the child with cool water.
- Stay inside
- Wear light loose-fitting clothes, a hat and sunscreen
- Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty,
- Avoid caffeinated drinks & alcohol for adults
- Avoid exercise during the hottest parts of the day, especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- When outside, stay in the shade.
- Apply sunscreen: Protect your child’s skin from the sun’s rays with sunscreen.
- If the child is not cooling down or if the child’s symptoms are severe, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for a physician’s advice. Always make sure to seek a doctor or a professional’s advice before proceeding with the home treatment plan.