Beat the Heat: A Lesson in Heat-Related Illness

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Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Children’s Hospital New Orleans

Beat the Heat :: A Lesson in Heat-Related Illness

It’s officially summer, and across South Louisiana, we’re experiencing nearly record high temperatures. With heat advisories issued and kids playing outside for the summer, there’s a thing or two you should know about heat-related illness!

Heat-related illness is brought on when the body’s temperature gets too high. Body temperature can be affected by the temperature of the air and by level of physical activity, which we know can be high in the summer with kids at camp, sports, and outdoor activities. To protect your child from heat-related illness, get to know the symptoms and how to prevent kids getting overheated.

What are the symptoms of heat-related illness?

Heat-related illness can range in symptoms from mild to moderate and even severe. A few mild symptoms of heat-related illness that can present are heat cramps and heat rash. Heat cramps are painful spasms in muscles during activity or hours later, and a heat rash can appear as tiny red bumps on skin and a prickly sensation. Excess sweating and irritable mood, dizziness, and weakness are also mild symptoms.

A more moderate symptom is heat exhaustion which is characterized by excess sweating, cold, pale, or flushed skin, extreme weakness and fatigue, headache, nausea, loss of appetite, and muscle cramps. Another telltale sign of heat exhaustion is a rapid or weak pulse.

A heat stroke is the most serious and severe symptom of heat-related illness. This will present as a child having hot, dry skin that looks red, gray, or bluish, but not sweating. A person experiencing a heat stroke will also have deep, fast breathing, headache or nausea, a rapid, weak, or irregular pulse, dizziness, and confusion. They may even faint or have convulsions or other shaking movements.

How is heat-related illness treated?

If your child displays the symptoms of heat stroke, call 911 or immediately take your child to the nearest emergency department. You can also start treatment yourself by doing the following: 

  • Remove your child from the heat source that is causing the illness.
  • Give your child cold fluids, such as water, to prevent dehydration. Infants can be given a children’s electrolyte solution. If your child won’t drink fluids, or has more serious signs of heat-related illness, IV fluids may be needed.
  • Apply a cool compress to your child’s forehead, neck, and underarms.
  • Use a fan to blow cool air onto your child’s skin.
  • Give your child a bath in cool water to bring down body temperature. Make sure the water is not too cold.
  • Give your child over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to treat pain and fever. Don’t give ibuprofen to an infant 6 months of age or less, or to a child who is dehydrated or constantly vomiting. Don’t give aspirin to a child with a fever. This can put your child at risk of a serious illness called Reye syndrome.

How is heat-related illness prevented?

While heat-related illness is scary, there are easy steps you can take to prevent your child from falling victim to the heat. Be sure to give your child plenty of fluids to drink and dress your child in appropriate clothing for the weather (be sure to apply sun screen!). Have your child rest and take breaks during exercise or physical activity, especially outside. On extremely hot days, keep your child indoors or in shaded or cool areas and give them more fluids than usual. Another great way to keep body temperatures regular is to spray cool water on your child to keep him or her cool. Have your child wear a hat or a visor when outside.

By being able to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness and the steps you can take to prevent it, you and your family will be able to get through this hot Louisiana summer!

About Cristina Halk, MD

Dr. Cristina Shelton Halk is a Children’s Hospital pediatrician on the Northshore at 4880 Highway 22 in Mandeville and 728 West 11th Avenue in Covington. After earning her medical degree from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, Dr. Halk completed residency at Baylor College of Medicine within Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. Her favorite part of her job is partnering with kids, their families, and their communities to ensure children lead healthy lives.

 

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