How does heat affect the body?
Generally humans can control their internal temperature in the heat by sweating. However under extreme heat and humidity conditions the body cannot keep up and will suffer from heat stress including heat exhaustion and even heat stroke which can be very dangerous. The elderly and young children, as well as those with chronic respiratory and heart conditions are more susceptible to heat induced injury.
Prevention of heat injury
Clearly the best approach is to try to prevent heat injury. Here are some ways to prevent heat injury during heat/ humidity waves:
- Young children and babies should be dressed very lightly and not bundled in blankets or heavy clothing.
- Stay out of the heat and humidity by staying indoors during the hottest time of the day(usually mid morning to mid afternoon).The use of air conditioners if available helps…even for young babies and infants.
- If the there are no air conditioners, try to stay at the lowest level of the house as it tends to be cooler. Also, try to keep the house as shaded as possible by closing window blinds and curtains. A fan will help as well.
- Do not stay or leave children in parked cars during hot weather.
- Avoid vigorous exercise in the heat(this includes children as well). If you have a young child or a child with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, do not allow them to partake in sporting events or exercise during heat waves especially when there is a heat/humidity advisory in effect.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Water is good. Sports drinks are good too as they contain added salt. It is important to know that children may not feel thirsty but will still need to drink regularly. Do not use salt tablets and avoid drinking caffeine containing beverages.
- When in the sun keep track of how long a child has been outside. Learn to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion right away so you or your child can get shelter in order to avoid further heat injury. Also, use your common sense and remove your child from the sun/heat as frequently as you think is necessary. Do not over do it.
- If your children are swimming in a pool or beach, you still have to be aware that the high humidity and sun rays are still a potential threat. Proper sun-screen protection as well as frequent rests in the shade are still necessary.
- Children are unable to perspire as much as adults and therefore are more prone to heat stress during exercise than adults. A cautious and sensible approach must be used in determining if children can safely partake in sports activities during heat/humidity waves.
Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.