Scorching temperatures may present a ‘substantial health hazard’ to children, authorities assert. Here’s what guardians should grasp.

The summer of 2023 witnessed unprecedented high temperatures, and according to statements from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of the 120,000 heat-related emergency room admissions in the United States the previous year occurred between May and September. The CDC also notes a rise in heat-related ER admissions among individuals below 18 years old.

With increasing demand for educational institutions to establish temperature guidelines to prevent kids from engaging in exterior physical exercises amid harsh climatic conditions, pediatric experts divulge their strategies for maintaining children’s coolness. They advise on coping with sweltering temperatures and the dangers they pose to minors.

All individuals can suffer due to elevated temperatures, but they are particularly burdensome to juveniles, Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatric expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, imparts to Yahoo Life. “Children have poor temperature regulation abilities,” he remarks.

Dr. Tracy Zaslow, a pediatrician and sports medicine director at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, concurs. “Youngsters’ bodies generate warmth quicker than those of adults, and their ability to dissipate that heat is not as efficient,” she elaborates. Consequently, children can succumb to illnesses from extreme temperatures more rapidly than many grown-ups, she elucidates.

Intense heat can precipitate various health complications, including dehydration, heat fatigue, heat spasms, and heatstroke — a critical emergency situation, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions. Children might also exhibit greater irritability than usual under extreme temperatures, the organization points out.

The AAP deems a heat index of 90 degrees or above as presenting a “substantial health risk” to young ones. Zaslow suggests that households utilize the heat index as a guideline to decide whether it’s suitable to stay indoors or go outside if feasible.

In sweltering conditions absent home air conditioning, Zaslow advises taking the young ones to a cooler indoor venue like a community shopping center, a public library, or a designated cooling site. “Even a brief stint of one or two hours in air conditioning can make a difference,” she notes. Although electric fans can offer relief, when the mercury tops 90 degrees, they may not thwart heat-related ailments, Zaslow mentions. “At that juncture, they’re merely propelling the warm air,” she states.

In 2024, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention commenced a Heat & Health Tracker which furnishes regional heat and wellness statistics, inclusive of the frequency of emergency department consultations for heat-related illnesses in your vicinity.

When venturing outside in elevated temperatures is a necessity, pediatricians provide several recommendations to safeguard your child.

  • Select suitable attire for your child. Zaslow advises opting for breezy garments, light and airy textiles, and paler shades to maximize coolness.

  • Emphasize fluid intake. “Ascertain that your child is sipping liquids consistently,” Zaslow recommends. To make water more appealing on a normal day, she proposes infusing it with fruit, offering food items rich in water content (such as watermelon and cucumbers), and motivating them to use a straw. “Utilizing a straw often results in increased drinking,” she clarifies. It’s vital to prompt kids to drink incessantly throughout the day — not solely when they express thirst, Kelley Miller, accident prevention coordinator at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, tells Yahoo Life.

  • Examine surfaces before permitting touch by a child. Surfaces like car seat latches and handrails can reach scorching temperatures in extreme heat, Ganjian warns. “Check the surfaces beforehand to ensure they don’t scald your child,” he instructs.

  • Consider a tepid shower or bath. If a youngster appears overheated or if air conditioning isn’t available, Miller suggests reducing body temperature with a chilly or tepid bath or shower.

  • Aim to dodge the hottest parts of the day. “It’s advisable to limit outdoor activities to cooler times,” Zaslow notes. Miller adds that “engaging in play during early morning or late afternoon and steering clear of vigorous actions between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the sun’s peak temperature times, is prudent.”

  • Evade the playground during extreme heat periods. Many previous playgrounds have asphalt surroundings, which can intensify and reflect heat, making it feel warmer than other places, Zaslow mentions. Playground equipment can also pose a hazard. “Elements that soak up heat, such as slides and other metallic features, have been measured at temperatures as high as 189 degrees, capable of causing burns to hands and feet,” Miller communicates.

  • Generously apply sunblock. Beyond safeguarding a youngster’s epidermis, sunscreen can aid in keeping them cool. “Being sunburned makes it more challenging for your body to cool itself,” Zaslow mentions.

  • Ensure vehicles are locked when not operated. The temperature inside an idle automobile can skyrocket swiftly, crafting a perilous scenario for little ones, Ganjian observes. “Always secure your car’s doors when it’s parked on your property,” he counsels. “Youngsters are drawn to cars as play areas and could become trapped.”

  • Endeavor to spend time in aquatic environments. “Any water-related activity is beneficial,” suggests Zaslow, who advocates for families by the seaside to immerse themselves in the ocean—not merely linger by it.

The AAP suggests keeping vigilance for these heat-related illness indicators in juveniles:

  • Becoming light-headed

  • Profound lethargy

  • Head discomfort

  • Elevated body temperature

  • Severe need for fluids

  • Lack of urine output for extended durations

  • Stomach distress

  • Expulsion of stomach contents

  • Accelerated or deeper breathing than what is customary

  • Numb or prickling skin

  • Muscular soreness

In regard to the duration children can spend outside in heightened heat, Ganjian states it largely relies on the heat index and the child’s tolerance to the climate. “Should your child exhibit symptoms of overheating such as flushed cheeks, excessive perspiration, or augmented fussiness, these are signals for immediate retreat to an air-conditioned environment,” he advises.

This commentary was initially released on July 10, 2023, and has been revised for current accuracy.

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