Weather experts are expecting a “hotter-than-average” summer for 2020 for most of the country. So, it’s a good time to start brushing up on your heat safety knowledge and prepping to keep your family safe.
Children are more susceptible to temperature extremes and the effects heat can have on the body compared to adults. Because their bodies are less able to regulate their body temperature, it’s important to understand best practices to prevent heat-related emergencies and know how to respond in cases of heat stroke in children.
Heat emergency prevention
Help prevent heat-related emergencies in children by:
- Keeping children hydrated.
- Dressing children in clothing that is single-layered, light-colored and lightweight.
- Having children rest in the shade whenever possible.
- Avoiding physical activity or exercise when the weather is hot or humid.
Additionally, every parent and caregiver should be aware of the risk for heat-related illnesses or death when children (or pets) are left in vehicles.
According to the Children’s Safety Network, 37 children die from heat stroke in cars each year. Because it only takes 10 minutes for a car temperature to become deadly, this organization promotes the following safety tips:
- Never leave a child alone in a vehicle even if it’s “just for a minute”. Don’t leave them even if the windows and doors are open or if the car is in a garage.
- Check the back seat every time you leave the car. Children are often forgotten in vehicles when there is a schedule change or if the driver is distracted.
- Call 911 if you see a child left alone in a vehicle.
This infographic includes safety tips and information to help clear up common misconceptions about heatstroke in cars.
How to respond to heat stroke in children
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. The body’s cooling systems become overwhelmed as body temperature continues to significantly rise. Heat stroke can quickly cause permanent damage to the brain and other organs. It is a serious medical emergency that can result in death.
Children with heat stroke may present an altered mental status in which the child may be confused and have trouble communicating. Their skin will become very warm, even hot to the touch. Heavy sweating may be present, but the skin may be red and completely dry.
Other signs of heat stroke may include:
- Slurred speech
- Severe headache
- Fast breathing and pulse
If you recognize the signs of heat stroke, call 911 immediately and take steps to quickly cool the child.
Use the resources around you to aggressively cool down the child. If possible, immerse the child in water up to the neck. Or spray or pour water on the child and fan him. Place ice packs against the child’s groin, armpits and sides of the neck. Cover the child with a cold, wet sheet or towel if available.
Continue to provide cooling efforts until EMS arrives.
Early recognition and immediate cooling can dramatically increase the chance for survival from heat stroke.
To learn more about heat-related emergencies and other medical emergencies specific to children, take a pediatric First Aid class near you.