Tips to Protect against heat stroke

Preventing Heatstroke in Children

Temperatures are soaring here in the Old Pueblo and while our little Tucsonans can be tough tykes, they’re still susceptible to extreme heat and succumbing to heatstroke, more so than most adults.

Why are kids more susceptible to heat?

Children’s smaller mass to surface area ratio children can lose fluid more quickly than adults and become dehydrated. Children also have a high metabolic rate, so their bodies use more water. Their kidneys do not conserve water as well as an adult’s and often your kids may not drink or eat when they are not feeling well. Children are also more likely to be outside playing and being more active than adults and are less likely to know to slow down and drink more water.

Is my child dehydrated?

  • Do they seem to be sluggish?
  • When they cry are there few or no tears?
  • Are they complaining about a dry mouth?
  • Are they more cranky,  irritable or fussy than usual?
  • Is their urine darker than usual? Or if they are an infant is their diaper dry after 3 hours?
  • Are they constipated?
  • Is their skin particularly dry and lacking its normal elasticity?
  • Do their eyes appear sunken?
  • If your child is an infant is their soft spots (fontanella) sunken?

Yes to any of these may indicate that your child is dehydrated. If it is fairly mild you may be able to address this at home, but check with your physician if you have any question. The advice below is not a substitute for seeing a physician. 

What should I do if my child seems dehydrated?

For children older than 1 and less than 11:

  • If your child is dehydrated use an oral rehydration solution (ORS) like Pedialyte or plain water (if the child is eating food) may be used to replace lost fluids. If the child isn’t eating plain water doesn’t provide essential electrolytes, they need an ORS. Avoid giving your child sodas, caffeinated beverages, or gelatins, which don’t relieve dehydration and which may make symptoms worse.
  • Make sure your child is drinking small amounts, frequently.
  • Rehydration may take a few hours, your child should stay in a cool, shaded area and sip fluids frequently
  • Allow your child to drink as much fluid as he or she wants. Encourage your child to drink extra fluids or suck on flavored ice pops, such as Popsicles. Children ages 4 to 10 should drink at least 6 to 10 glasses of liquids to replace lost fluids.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms do not improve or if they worsen

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke, is when the body becomes overheated and fails to regulate its own temperature. Body temperatures rise, and may even get up to 105°F (40.6°C) or higher.  Heatstroke is a medical emergency, it can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Skin is flushed, red and dry
  • Little or no sweating
  • Deep breathing
  • Dizziness, headache, and/or fatigue
  • Less urine is produced, of a dark yellowish color
  • Loss of consciousness

Oh no, I think my child has heatstroke, what should I do?

  • Move your child out of the heat immediately and take your child to hospital or doctor as soon as possible
  • If for some reason you can not get your child to a hospital or physician, quickly move your child immediately out of the heat and place in a cool bath (although not less than 60 degrees, you don’t want to constrict their blood vessels)
  • When your child is in the bath massage their skin to increase circulation, get them to a hospital or doctor as quickly as possible

How can I prevent my child my child getting dehydrated or heatstroke?

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Insist on your children taking plenty of breaks to drink fluids while playing outside, especially if they are playing sports or engaged in vigorous physical activity. Perhaps set up a timer as a reminder.  Also, hydrate before, during and after time in the heat.

2. Stay indoors

We’re all about getting kids out and physically active, BUT when the heat is this high, avoid spending time outdoors. Our suggestion: wake early to play outside, take a siesta in the afternoon and then venture out in the evening.

3. Never leave a child in a parked car at ANY TIME

Even if the windows are open, temperatures can rise to shocking temperatures in minutes

4. Keep it light and wear a hat

Wear light, loose-fitting clothes when they’re outside. Breathable fabrics like cotton are best.

This advice does not substitute for that of a medical professional. If you are concerned that you or your children may have heat stroke or moderate to severe dehydration please seek in person medical advice.