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Keep Kids Safe from Heat-Related Illnesses

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As school resumes, student athletes, band members, and their coaches will be exercising in the heat of the final days of summer. As a result, they will be susceptible to heat-related illness like dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. However, by following some basic guidelines and watching for warning signs, heat illness can be prevented.

Heat cramps occur in kids when they are exercising vigorously and they have failed to drink enough water to remain properly hydrated. According to the Center for Disease Control, we should drink 2 to 4 cups of water every hour while exercising or working in hot weather. If you child suffers from heat cramps, have him or her rest in a cool place and offer fluids. Sometimes, massaging a cramped muscle may help.

A more serious condition to monitor for is heat exhaustion. This illness occurs when someone is in a hot climate or environment and has failed to drink fluids. Symptoms include fatigue, clammy skin, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid breathing, and irritability. If these symptoms are present, make sure the child is moved indoors or under shade and encouraged to eat and drink. A cool water sponge bath will help to lower the body’s temperature core. If vomiting continues, CDC recommends seeking medical attention.

If untreated, heat exhaustion can become heatstroke. During heatstroke, the body can’t regulate its own temperature, causing brain damage or death if not treated quickly. Only immediate medical care can bring the body temperature back down and under control. Heatstroke symptoms include hot dry skin (no sweat), severe headache, dizziness, sluggishness, confusion, seizure or fainting. If your child shows any of these symptoms, call for emergency help. While waiting, move the child indoors or to shade. Remove clothing and douse the child’s skin with cool water. Most importantly, do NOT offer fluids.

Whether we are coaching kids or encouraging them to enjoy school recess and the outdoors, a few common sense preventatives can help us protect them from heat illness. The Mayo clinic urges us to teach kids to drink plenty of fluids, even if they are not thirsty. Children can learn to seek shade or head indoors when they feel overheated. Double-check that your kids are wearing light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. Finally, sports and other activities should occur before noon or after 6 p.m. when the sun is lower in the sky.


Mayo clinic, Heat and Exercise Safety, web. 17, Aug. 2011.

American Academy of Pediatrics, web. 17, Aug. 2011.

Center for Disease Control, web. 17, Aug. 2011.

Reviewed August 18, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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