According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, kids are more likely to get hurt during the summer months than any other time of the year. In fact, this summer, children ages 14 and under will be brought to emergency rooms nearly 3 million times for serious injuries resulting from various hazards, including motor vehicle crashes, drownings, bike crashes, pedestrian incidents, falls and heat- and sun-related injuries.
With kids playing outside and enjoying some fun in the sun, mishaps are definitely more likely to occur. We previously brought you Part 1 in our Truestar Summer Health Hazards Series: Sunburns. This week, we will focus on how to prevent sunstroke as kids play outdoors in the summer sun and heat.
What is sunstroke?
Heat-related illness, including heat stroke, is a condition that occurs after exposure to excessive heat. Sunstroke—a type of heat stroke—occurs when the source of excessive heat is the sun. Heat stroke occurs when the body's heat-regulating system fails, due to exposure to high temperatures. The body relies on water evaporation to stay cool. As body temperature rises, sweating occurs. When the sweat evaporates, the body cools down. In very dry air, sweat evaporates easily and quickly cools the body. However, in very humid air, sweat does not evaporate and may collect on the skin or run off the body without affecting the body’s rising temperature. Ultimately, when sweating can no longer keep the body cool, body temperature rises rapidly and the symptoms of heatstroke develop.
Kids and sunstroke
Kids are more vulnerable to sunstroke than adults as their bodies become more easily dehydrated, a factor that leads to heat-related illnesses. Children are more susceptible to dehydration because they can’t release heat as effectively as adults. Also, they often don’t realize they’re thirsty, causing them to become severely dehydrated and increasing their risk of sunstroke. Kids also rely on others to modify their environments, such as removing heavy clothing or offering a drink. Parents must take the steps to prevent sunstroke in kids who may not be able to take the steps for themselves.
If your child feels dizzy or faint or has a sudden headache when the weather is hot and they have been playing outdoors, they may be dehydrated and suffering from sunstroke. Other symptoms include: little or no sweating; a rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; hot, red and dry skin; a high body temperature, typically 102 degrees F (38.9 degrees C) or higher; and/or vomiting and muscle cramps. If these symptoms occur in your child, get them to a cool place, rehydrate them with fluids and seek medical attention.
To prevent sunstroke
In a survey by The National SAFE KIDS campaign, more than 75% of parents of active 8 to14 year-olds did not know how to prevent dehydration in their kids. Follow these steps to protect your kids from sunstroke.
Keep kids hydrated: Keeping your kids well hydrated is extremely important in the summer heat. New research by the Defeat The Heat public safety campaign found that two-thirds of kids were significantly dehydrated before sports practice, which put them at increased risk for more serious heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke. See Not Thirsty? Time to Drink! for more information and follow these healthy hydration tips:
Make sure your child drinks water frequently throughout the day, even if they are not thirsty. If your child’s urine is dark, it is a sign the body is dehydrated.
Always give your child water before, during and after activity to replace what they have lost through sweat.
Loss of salt and other electrolytes in the body also contributes to sunstroke. Sports drinks such as Gatorade that contain sodium and potassium and sugar are a good option to stay hydrated during times of long exposure to the heat without food or snack.
Avoid caffeine-containing beverages such as cola, which dehydrate the body.
Limit time in the sun: Find shaded or air-conditioned areas for your kids to play, if possible. The Truestar Food Fun and Games are great activities your kids can enjoy whether they are indoors or sitting under a tree.
Feed your kids light food: Avoid giving your kids hot and heavy meals. Choose foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables, salads and soups. Try Truestar’s Creamsicle Smoothie.
Protect your kids: Dress your kids in lightweight, loose fitting and light-colored clothing. Light color will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. Make sure your kids wear a hat that shades their face, neck and ears. Always ensure they wear sunscreen.
Know the heat index: Sunstroke occurs due to exposure to excessive sun and heat, which is caused by air temperature and humidity of the air. To protect your family, learn the heat index, which measures both air temperature and relative humidity of the air. The heat index tells us how hot it feels outside in the shade. Note that the heat index can rise by as much as 15 F in the direct sun. Heat-related conditions are likely to begin at 80 F to 90 F.
Stay tuned for Summer Health Hazards Part 3: Poison Ivy and Insect Bites.