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Have an active kid? Make sure to take precautions before they head outdoors for activities these next couple weeks as heat indexes rise to dangerous levels.

Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, occur when your body can’t keep itself cool. They’re more common in children, as they can’t regulate their bodies as well as adults. Heat indexes combine air temperature and relative humidity to help determine how your body actually feels in the heat, which can be even more important than monitoring the outdoor temperature itself.

Heat illnesses are tricky because they can happen when it’s humid or dry. When it’s dry, sweat evaporates very quickly, which leaves you and your child unable to tell how much water you’ve lost. When it’s humid, your child’s body is less effective in cooling itself down.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if you see your child acting a little off, such as having confusion, dark colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, cramps, nausea, vomiting, pale skin, profuse sweating and rapid heart rate, they may be affected by heat illness, and it’s important to get them out of the heat fast.

The Risks:

  • Heat rash (or prickly heat) occurs when sweat glands are blocked and need to excessively sweat. It can happen if clothing is too tight or a cream is blocking the skin. The symptoms are a rash with red bumps, or an itching, prickly sensation on the skin.

  • Heat exhaustion occurs from either salt depletion or water depletions.

  • Heat stroke is more serious than heat exhaustion, and without proper care, can lead to damage of the brain and vital organs. It occurs when your internal body temp reaches 104 degrees. Symptoms are similar to exhaustion, just more serious: a high fever, lack of sweating and seizures.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFE

Always provide an ample amount of water to kids playing outside. It’s extremely important that they hydrate a ton prior to any exercise. If they’re practicing in a heat index above 95, mandate 10-minute water breaks (in a shady spot if possible) every 30 minutes. If they’re playing a contact sport, take off any helmets and heavy equipment, or consider rescheduling practice. Loose, light clothing is always better. If the heat index is above 100, consider shortening play or practice, or moving it to sometime before 10 am or after 6 pm. Any heat index above 104 means practice should be canceled.

Make sure your child also limits caffeine intake before playing outside, as that dehydrates them further. Drinks with salt and electrolytes (Pedialyte, for example) are helpful in replenishing fluids after and before extended time in the heat. Be sure to read labels of any medication your child maybe taking as well (allergy meds, antidepressants or laxatives) as they can also speed up the process of a heat illness occurring.

WHAT TO DO:

Heat Rash: Immediately remove any tight clothing and let the skin cool by air drying it. Avoid any cream or lotion.

Heat Exhaustion: Get out of the heat and any activity fast. Find a cool building with air conditioning (a shady spot as a last resort), and drink plenty of fluids. Apply damp cool towels if you can and remove any unnecessary clothing.

Heatstroke: Call 911 for emergency medical assistant as soon as possible, and get them to an air-conditioned spot until they arrive. Remove the child’s unnecessary clothing to help cool him or her down. Try to fan air over them while wetting the skin with water. You can also apply ice packs to the child’s armpits, groins, neck and back.

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