Summer Safety: Protecting Children from Heat-Related Illnesses

summer safety

Summer brings joy and excitement to children as they eagerly embrace outdoor activities and enjoy the sunshine. However, parents must be aware of the risks associated with heat-related illnesses in children. Exposing children to excessive heat and humidity without proper precautions can lead to severe conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. 

Over the last 25 years, more than 940 children left or trapped in hot cars have died due to heat stroke. All parents must understand that children are particularly susceptible to heat stroke, and every hot car death is preventable. Heat stroke in children sets in when a child’s core body temperature reaches around 104 degrees Fahrenheit; tragically, it can be fatal when their body temperature reaches 107 degrees. In 2022 alone, 33 children died from heatstroke in vehicles. 2018 and 2019 were particularly devastating, with a record-breaking number of hot car deaths – 53 children annually – making it the highest in at least 25 years. 


Understanding Heat-Related Illness

Heat-related illnesses are a spectrum of conditions that range from mild heat exhaustion to severe heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is typically the first stage, characterized by excessive sweating, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps. If not addressed promptly, it can progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Heat stroke symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Hot and dry skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • High body temperature


Heat Stroke

Heat stroke in kids is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that every parent should be aware of. It occurs when the body’s temperature regulation system fails, rapidly increasing body temperature. As a result, children may experience symptoms such as a high body temperature, hot and dry skin, fast heartbeat, confusion, and even loss of consciousness. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention, as delayed treatment can lead to organ damage and, in severe cases, can be fatal. To protect your child from heat stroke, it is crucial to recognize the signs and promptly move them to a shaded area. Use wet towels or water to cool their body and seek immediate medical help. By remaining watchful and implementing preventive measures, parents can shield their children from the risks of heat stroke during the scorching summer season. 


Heat Exhaustion 

Heat exhaustion in kids is a common heat-related condition that parents must be aware of to ensure their child’s well-being. It occurs when the body becomes overheated and dehydrated due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Symptoms of heat exhaustion in kids include excessive sweating, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, and pale or clammy skin. It’s essential to address heat exhaustion promptly to prevent it from progressing to a more severe condition like heat stroke. If your child exhibits these symptoms, immediately move them to a cool shaded area, provide water to sip, and help them cool down with cold compresses or damp cloths. Rest and rehydration are essential during recovery. Preventive measures, such as keeping your child hydrated, dressing them in lightweight clothing, and providing shade during outdoor activities, will significantly reduce the risk of heat exhaustion. 


Factors Affecting Children’s Heat Tolerance 

Several factors influence a child’s heat tolerance and susceptibility to heat-related illnesses. Children are more vulnerable due to their smaller bodies, higher metabolic rates, and reduced ability to regulate body temperature compared to adults. Additionally, certain medical conditions, such as obesity, dehydration, and respiratory problems, can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. Environmental factors like high humidity, prolonged sun exposure, and lack of adequate shade or ventilation also play a significant role. 


Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses in Children 


A. Stay Hydrated

Encourage children to drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if they don’t feel thirsty. Avoid sugary drinks and caffeine, as they can contribute to dehydration. 


B. Dress Appropriately 

Dress children in lightweight, breathable clothing that covers their skin. Opt for light-colored and loose-fitting clothes to reflect sunlight and allow air circulation. 


C. Seek Shade and Time It Right

Plan outdoor activities during cooler times, such as early mornings or evenings. When outdoors, provide shade using umbrellas, trees, or canopies to protect children from direct sunlight. 


D. Apply Sunscreen

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. Apply it generously on all exposed skin, including the face, neck, and ears. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if sweating or swimming. 


E. Create a Cool Environment

Keep indoor spaces cold using fans, air conditioning, or natural ventilation. Use curtains or blinds to block out direct sunlight and open windows and doors to promote airflow. 


F. Educate on Heat Safety Tips

Teach children about the importance of heat safety and recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses. Encourage them to take breaks, seek shade, and drink water regularly during outdoor activities. 


Educating Children About Summer Safety

Empowering children with knowledge about summer safety is crucial for their well-being. Teach them to recognize their body’s overheating signals, such as being excessively tired or dizzy. Please encourage them to communicate any discomfort or symptoms to a trusted adult. Explain the importance of seeking shade, taking breaks, and drinking water to prevent heat-related illnesses. 

Furthermore, educate children about the dangers of playing in hot vehicles, as the temperature inside can quickly become life-threatening. Stress the importance of never leaving children or pets unattended in a parked car, even temporarily. 


Ensuring a Cool and Safe Summer: Protecting Children from Heat-Related Illnesses 

As we embrace the joys of summer, it’s vital to prioritize the safety of children and prevent heat-related illnesses. By understanding the risks, recognizing the symptoms, and following preventive measures, parents can ensure a safe and enjoyable summer for their children. Remember, by staying hydrated, dressing appropriately, seeking shade, applying sunscreen, and educating children about heat safety, we can promote heat-related illness prevention and create lasting memories of summer fun. 

Are you looking to ensure your child’s safety during the summer? Visit the Children’s Medical Center of Fresno, your trusted partner in Summer Safety. Our experienced pediatricians specialize in providing expert guidance on preventing and addressing heat-related illnesses. Contact us at (559) 455-1500 to schedule an appointment and prioritize your child’s well-being. We offer convenient care options to meet your needs, including our after-hour pediatric clinic, telemedicine services, and weekend appointments.

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