As high temperatures impact much of the upper mid-west over the next few days, health officials are cautioning people on the dangers that come with the heat and humidity. Most of those warnings are directed at elderly and those with underlying conditions. However the extreme heat can also cause children to become sick in several ways. A heat index at or above 90°F, as identified by the National Weather Service, poses a significant health risk. However, there are several steps you can take to beat the heat and protect your child from heat-related illness. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Nancy Cox with Jefferson County Health Center shares the steps to keeping kids safe.
Find an air-conditioned space. If your home does not have air-conditioning, find a nearby building that does. Libraries can be a great place for a cool retreat from the heat. If you live in a place where the air-conditioning is unpredictable, plan in advance for a safe place for you and your family to go during times when the temperatures are high.
Stay hydrated. Encourage your children to drink water regularly and have it readily available—even before they ask for it. On hot days, infants receiving breast milk in a bottle can be given additional breast milk in a bottle, but they should not be given water—especially in the first six months of life. Infants receiving formula can be given additional formula in a bottle. See Signs of Dehydration in Infants & Children.
Dress lightly. Dress your children in clothing that is light-colored, lightweight, and limited to one layer of absorbent material that will maximize the evaporation of sweat. Kids have a lower capacity for sweating than adults.
Plan for extra rest time. Heat can often make children (and their parents) feel tired.
Cool off. When your child is feeling hot, give them a cool bath or water mist to cool down. Swimming is another great way to cool off while staying active.
Lastly a reminder to look before you lock… making sure there isn’t a child or pet in a parked car. Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths in children under 15. Heat stroke happens when the body is not able to cool itself quickly enough. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s does. When left in a hot car, a child’s major organs begin to shut down when his temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit.