Lazy summer days are here in northern Pennsylvania and are sunny and warm days full of activities for kids taking advantage of their summer vacation. During the hot summer months, it is important to know how to keep your child safe.
What is a burn?
When summer temperatures reach their maximum, the risk of burns increases. Heat is a major weather-related killer, but heat-related casualties can be prevented.
Burns are a term used to describe any of the common heat strokes, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. These conditions can progress one after the other along the continuum. It is very important for parents to be aware of heat as children are often unaware of the effects of heat and this can lead to heat stroke.
In order of severity, the four heat-related illnesses are:
Dehydration – Of all fever-related illnesses, dehydration is the most common. Heat and humidity make both children and adults vulnerable to dehydration. When dehydrated, the first sign is thirst. However, there are other signs to watch out for. They contain:
Muscle Cramps – Heat-related muscle cramps most often occur when a child is dehydrated and exposed to heat for an extended period of time. Cramps usually occur in the lower extremities, but can also occur in the abdomen. If you think your child has a fever, ask your child to do the following:
Drink sports drinks to hydrate. If possible, drink something that contains sodium and electrolytes.
Do a light stretch and massage
Heat exhaustion – During periods of dehydration, heat exhaustion can occur if the child remains active. This is most common during late summer activities. The signs of heat exhaustion are:
I have a problem playing or I feel like I can’t continue playing
Dizziness, fainting, loss of coordination
Headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
Stomach cramps or persistent muscle cramps
When these symptoms occur, it is important to act quickly.
Move the child to an air conditioner or at least a shady place
Remove excess clothing and equipment en
Cool with water or fan
Place the child with his feet above the heart
If your child is not nauseous or is vomiting, drink water or sports drink to hydrate
If your child does not recover immediately, seek medical attention immediately.
Heat Stroke – A serious heat-related illness that can lead to permanent disability or death if left untreated, usually when the temperature in the center of the body (with nervous system dysfunction) exceeds 104 degrees. Heat stroke occurs as a result of active activity in the heat. The risk of heat stroke increases with increasing heat and humidity.
The signs that a child may have heat stroke include:
Seizures, confusion, emotional instability, irrational behavior or other signs of central nervous system dysfunction
Elevated body temperature
Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, weakness, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, dehydration or fighting power
Heat stroke is an emergency medical treatment and you should call 911 immediately. Keep the child out of the heat and sun and begin to cool the child gently and gradually until help arrives.
Help your child beat the fever
When it comes to heatstroke, preparation and prevention are key. When planning a game day in warm weather:
Mark Odorizzi, DO, is a UPMC pediatrician based in North Central, Pennsylvania, treating patients at UPMC Pediatrics in South Williamsport, 6 East Mountain Avenue, South Williamsport. Call (570) 321-1665 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Odorizzi. For more information, visit: UPMC.com/PediatricsNCPA..
UPMC in north-central Pennsylvania.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even before you feel thirsty. Being thirsty means you are already dehydrated. Take before, during and after activities in the heat to stop dehydration. Always send your child outside to play with drinking water available nearby.
Wear breathable, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
Exercise and play in the shade, take frequent breaks and cool down. It is also helpful to avoid the peak days of the day from 10am to 2pm
Be especially careful when the humidity is high. The body has trouble cooling itself by sweating at higher humidity.
Watch for signs of fever and act quickly.
If your child is prepared and protected to avoid burns, spending time outside is okay. Heatstroke and injuries can sneak up on your child, but by following these simple tips, your child can stay safe and enjoy all the fun that summer has to offer.
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