The summer heat can be excruciating, with soaring temperatures that are amplified by the impact of global warming. When the mercury rises, like the adults, children often suffer different health issues. Let’s find out how parents can keep their children safe from heat-related illness.
Heat-related Illness: Heatstroke vs Heat Exhaustion
Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition caused by a malfunction in the body's temperature regulation system. Often it happens due to exposure to high temperatures or intense physical exertion in hot weather.
Heat exhaustion is a milder heat-related illness resulting from prolonged heat exposure and insufficient fluid intake. It occurs when the body becomes dehydrated and loses electrolytes through excessive sweating. Without proper treatment, it can cause heatstroke.
Causes of Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion in Children
Immature Thermoregulatory System
Young children have a less developed ability to regulate their body temperature compared to adults. Their sweat glands may not function as efficiently, making it more challenging for them to cool down effectively in hot environments.
Increased Surface Area to Body Weight Ratio
Usually, children have larger surface areas relative to their body weight, which means they can absorb heat from the environment more quickly. This makes them more susceptible to overheating and increases the risk of heat-related illnesses.
Children may not recognise the signs of overheating or may not communicate their discomfort effectively. They might continue playing or engaging in physical activities despite feeling excessively hot. It increases their risk of getting ill from high heat.
Lack of Hydration Knowledge
Sometimes children are not aware of the importance of staying hydrated and forget to drink water regularly. Under the scorching summer sun, kids may continue playing, neglecting the necessity of fluid intake, which can increase their risk of dehydration.
Dependency on Adults
Children mostly rely on adults to provide them with water, shade, and appropriate clothing choices. If somehow a child is not adequately hydrated, does not take breaks, or does not take protective measures due to the negligence of the caregiver, he/she can be at a higher risk of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
Participation in Sports or Activities
Children engaged in intense physical activities, or playing outdoors under the sun, are more at the risk of heat exhaustion. It happens especially when proper precautions are not taken. Extended periods of exertion in hot weather without adequate rest and hydration increase the risk significantly.
Staying in Enclosed Spaces or Vehicles
Leaving children in enclosed spaces, such as a parked car under the sun, even for a short time, can be harmful for their health. Due to summer heatwaves, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise quickly, posing a severe risk of heatstroke or even death.
Lack of Adjustment
Children who have not acclimatised gradually to hot weather conditions are at higher risk of heat-related illnesses. Sudden exposure to extreme heat overwhelms their bodies. Their organs may struggle to regulate the body-temperature effectively.
Certain Medical Conditions
Children with specific medical conditions, such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, or heart disease, may have a higher risk of heat-related illnesses. These conditions can affect the body's ability to regulate temperature or increase the vulnerability to dehydration.
It is essential to be careful of these causes and take necessary precautions to protect children from excessive heat exposure. To ensure they remain adequately hydrated in hot environments is essential.