What is Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke?
Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that happens when the body loses too much fluid either in hot weather or a hot venue, and can no longer cool itself. When this happens, the body also loses electrolytes and minerals (e.g., sodium chloride, potassium, calcium and sodium bicarbonate) that the body’s muscles need to function. (1)
Heat stroke can happen if heat exhaustion is not treated. If the body’s temperature is not brought down, systems start to shut down. Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate medical treatment. (1)
Heat Stroke Risk in Young Children
Infants, toddlers and young children are at increased risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke because they are very active in the summer and do not understand why they need to slow down and drink plenty of fluids.
Children also sweat out a lot of their body’s water in a shorter amount of time because of their small bodies. Children are less able to lower their body heat by sweating so their bodies overheat much more easily than adult bodies. (6)
10 Tips to Prevent Heat Stroke in Young Children
The below tips to prevent heat stroke in young children are compiled from the Encyclopedia for Children’s Health, EverydayHealth.com, and the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital:
1) Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until they tell you they’re thirsty. Stick with water and stay away from sugary drinks.
2) Use sports drinks or slightly salty water (1 tsp. of salt per quart of water) or lightly salted food to replace needed salt and minerals.
3) Young children should wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.
4) To prevent sunburn, children should wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 and a wide-brimmed hat even on cloudy days.
5) Outdoor activities should be scheduled for the mornings and evenings to avoid the time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is the strongest.