With the sweltering heat of summer beating down on our backs, the Indiana Department of Child Services is reminding parents to stay alert of the dangers posed by extreme heat on infants, young children, and older youth. While heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that hundreds of people die every year from excessive heat exposure across the country. Infants, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to heat, taking only a matter of minutes to develop complications from exposure to extreme heat.
People suffer from heat-related illnesses and death when their bodies are unable to cool themselves quickly enough. The body normally cools itself by sweating, but under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. Extreme temperatures can cause body temperatures to rise too rapidly and when the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly preventing the body from releasing heat quickly.
The number one protective measure against heat-related illness, according to the CDC, is air conditioning, making shopping malls and other public facilities good places to spend time on high-heat days.
The CDC also recommends parents provide plenty of fluids, preferably water, throughout the day for children to avoid heat-related illness. Also, limiting outdoor exposure, particularly during the hottest parts of the day and remaining in shaded areas when outdoors are good preventative steps. Dress infants and children in cool, loose clothing, use sunscreen and shade their heads with hats or umbrellas as well to cut down on the effects of heat.
Parents should watch for signs of possible heat stroke or exhaustion, which include body temperatures above 103 degrees; red, hot, dry skin with no sweating; rapid, strong pulse; complaints about headaches; dizziness of confusion; and nausea or vomiting. If your child displays any of these symptoms, get medical assistance as soon as possible. If your child is not sweating, or has a rapid pulse, do not give them fluids. Until medical help arrives, monitor the child’s body temperature. Cool the child rapidly by moving them to a shady area, spray or sponge the child with cool water, or place the child in front of a fan or air conditioner.