Preventing Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke in Kids

Everyone is familiar with that extra-tired feeling after a long day of fun in the sun. A little extra tiredness is okay, but exhaustion from the heat can be dangerous. Eugene Izsak, MD, medical director of ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital – Emergency Center shares the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke – conditions that children are even more susceptible to than adults.

Heat-Related Illnesses

Our bodies are built to get rid of excess heat from running around on a hot day – up to a certain point. When our bodies can no longer get rid of the excess heat and maintain a normal internal body temperature, we experience heatstroke. If not treated, heat stroke can be harmful, and even deadly.

Heatstroke can be prevented in children by making sure that the child is drinking plenty of water and taking frequent breaks to cool off in the shade or air conditioning. Before heatstroke occurs, a person will experience heat exhaustion. Knowing the warning signs and taking quick action can prevent the condition and symptoms from progressing. If a child is experiencing any of the following symptoms, they may be experiencing heat exhaustion:

  • Headache, dizziness or confusion.
  • Lethargy and tiredness.
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Cramping in arms, legs and stomach.

Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke if action is not taken. If these symptoms begin to appear, take the child inside to rest, cool down and drink plenty of fluids. If symptoms do not improve or worsen, seek medical attention.

Hot Car Safety

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 900 children have died of heatstroke since 1998 because they were left or became trapped in a hot car. It doesn’t take long for a car to heat up to unbearable temperatures – it can happen in just 10 minutes. However, with the right knowledge and prevention methods, all hot car deaths are preventable.

Here are safety tips:

  • Never leave a child alone in a car – even if it’s not hot out, the AC is on or the windows are down.
  • Make a habit of checking the back seat of the car before exiting the vehicle. Place a personal item that you never leave the car without (like a purse, briefcase or left shoe) in the back seat as a reminder.
  • Always keep car doors locked when the car is not in use, keep keys out of a child’s reach and teach kids that the car is not a place to play.

Heat-related injuries and deaths are often preventable. Know the signs and act before the child’s symptoms worsen.