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Early heat wave calls for precautions for children

Jun. 16, 2008, 2:34 PM

With temperatures already hitting the mid-90s, it’s important to keep a close eye on children, especially those who are active outside.

"This is the time that we tend to see more heat-induced illnesses because kids are out of school and more active outdoors," said Rebecca Swan, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children can’t adjust to summer heat as quickly as adults, and they don’t recognize the warning signs of dehydration. Here are the key symptoms to watch for:

  • Complaints of a headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Decreasing bathroom breaks
  • Nausea
  • Unsteadiness or dizziness

Proper hydration is a major tool to keep children safe in hot temperatures.

"It’s important to try to keep children ahead of the potential for dehydration. If your child has a softball game tomorrow, encourage him or her to drink well today. That way, he or she won’t be playing catch up tomorrow," Swan said.

Encouraging children to drink frequently during regular outdoor activities is also crucial. The AAP recommends that an 88-pound child drink 5 ounces of cold tap water every 20 minutes.

Swan adds that activities that involve water, such as pools, sprinklers and water parks are no different from other outdoor activities. "If you’re out there in the heat, you need to be drinking no matter how comfortable it feels," she said.

The types of beverages to stock up on are far-reaching.

"Bottled water, popsicles or fruit pops made of fruit juice – fun snacks that also hydrate – and sport drinks for heavier exercise are the best," Swan said.

Soda, on the other hand, isn’t a good choice. In fact, the sugar and caffeine in soda drain the body of water. "Go with water before drinking a Coke," Swan said.

Along with hydration, other precautions can be taken to prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Avoid intense outdoor activity from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the hottest part of the day.
  • Rest frequently in the shade when outdoors.
  • Wear light-colored and lightweight clothing.
  • Cover up – wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen of 15 SPF or greater.
  • Drink even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Stay indoors during extreme heat, using fans and air conditioning to cool the air.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles, even for a short period of time.

Media Contact: Carole Bartoo, (615) 322-4747
carol.bartoo@vanderbilt.edu

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