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by Amy McCarthy
The hottest days of summer are still yet to come. At a time when kids are outside the most, parents need to watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition. Kids and the elderly are at the highest risk, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Follow these strategies to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke:
• Hydration – Make sure that your child has plenty of drinking water. When kids are running around in high temperatures, they’re susceptible to severe heat cramps in their arms, legs or abdomen,especially if they’re not hydrated. Keep a close eye on very young children and make sure they’re drinking water regularly. For older kids, consider purchasing a refillable water jug that they can keep with them while playing outside.
• Cool Off – Require that your kids come inside once an hour on very warm days to refill their water bottles and cool off with a fan or air conditioning.
• Be Aware of the Signs – Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are different, but they’re both serious and require attention. KidsHealth.org lists the following signs of heat exhaustion:
– clammy skin
– nausea and/or vomiting
– hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
If you notice any of these signs in your child, bring him indoors or to a shady area. Loosen or remove any clothing, and encourage him to eat and drink. You can also try to bathe him in cool (not cold) water. If your child is too exhausted to eat or drink, call a medical professional; fluids given intravenously may be necessary to prevent severe dehydration.
Heat stroke is more severe than heat exhaustion and requires quick medical attention. Boys Town, a national child and healthcare organization, says one or more of the following symptoms may be a sign of heat stroke:
– A fever of at least 104°F
– Unconsciousness or delirium and child may or may not be sweating
– Flushed skin that is hot to the touch
– Fast heart rate
– Nausea and vomiting
“If you notice one or more signs of heat stroke, call for an ambulance and contact a physician immediately,” says Boys Town pediatrician Kelli Shidler, M.D. “It is essential that you cool your child down right away by moving them to a cool place, sponging the skin with cool water or ice packs and fanning their body.”
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