With kids heading back to school, many of them will be hitting the gym and the field to practice their after-school sports. Sports teams provide an excellent way for children and teens to learn lifelong team building skills, but they also may require kids to be outside in the blistering South Florida heat for long periods of time. Excessive heat exposure, especially in high humidity, can create several types of heat-related illnesses, so it’s extremely important that parents and coaches are aware of the way that the temperatures are affecting young athletes. While temperatures are still high, look for these signs of heat illness in kids so that proper actions can be taken in the event that your child becomes sick due to the heat.
Types and Signs of Heat Illness in Kids
- Heat Cramps: Heat cramps are the least severe of any heat illnesses and occurs when the body is sweating a lot and losing fluids and salts. Muscle cramping most often happens in the legs, arms, or abdomen. This condition may not be deadly on its own, but it can be a sign of something more serious. If your child is suffering from heat cramps, it’s a good idea to find a cool place for them to rest and administer fluids such as sports drinks that have sugars and salts. Light stretching and massaging may also help the affected area.
- Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is a more serious condition that should be treated immediately. It can occur in a hot environment when someone is not drinking enough fluids to replenish the body. According to experts, symptoms of heat exhaustion in kids can include increased thirst, weakness, fainting, muscle cramps, nausea and/or vomiting, irritability, headache, increased sweating, cool, clammy skin and elevation of body temperature (but less than 104°F). If you suspect that your child is suffering from heat exhaustion, find a cool area to let them rest and take off any excessive clothing. Give your child a sports drink and apply a cold cloth to their body. Call a medical professional if your child is too exhausted to drink or seems as though they may faint.
- Heatstroke: Heatstroke is the most severe heat-related illness and should be taken very seriously. If you feel like your child or someone you know is suffering from heatstroke, you should call a medical professional immediately. According to Kids Health, signs of heatstroke include the following: severe headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion, nausea, rapid breathing and heartbeat, loss of consciousness, seizure, no sweating, flushed, hot, dry skin, and temperature of 104°F or higher. If heatstroke is suspected, once medical professionals have been called, it’s essential to get the child to a cool location and use cold water to cool down the body. Take off any excessive clothing and give the child fluids as long as he or she is responsive.
Here in South Florida, we may think that we are used to the heat, but it can still be a dangerous situation if your body becomes overheated. Children may not know that they are in danger, so it’s up to parents and supervisors to recognize the signs and symptoms and identify children at risk of overheating.
Heatstroke can be avoided if proper precautions are taken prior to children being outside in high temperatures. Adequate hydration is key so it is imperative that kids have access to sports drinks and water. Additionally, it’s a good idea to wear light and cool clothing when exercising outside and take frequent breaks to allow the body to cool off. Children should not exercise excessively in the midday heat.
At Panter, Panter, and Sampedro, we want every child in our community to be safe. We look forward to providing more safety tips for our community throughout the upcoming school year and invite you to visit our website at panterlaw.com for more tips.