Heat wave: How to protect your kids from unrelenting temperatures

A quick guide to understanding hyperthermia and steps you can take to keep your little ones safe from the heat wave

Dr Ravi Kyadegerri
Published23 Jun 2024, 06:00 PM IST
It's imperative to educate children about hyperthermia to safeguard their safety and well-being during harsh summers
It’s imperative to educate children about hyperthermia to safeguard their safety and well-being during harsh summers

Hyperthermia (or overheating) is a condition characterized by elevated body temperature resulting from prolonged exposure to sunlight and impaired thermoregulation. Now, thermoregulation is a homeostatic process responsible for maintaining a stable internal body temperature despite external temperature fluctuations. The human body can tolerate temperatures up to 37.7°C (99.9°F) in late afternoons, but when temperatures exceed 40°C (104°F), it can have detrimental effects on health. Unlike fever, where the rise in body temperature is due to infection or inflammatory diseases, hyperthermia is induced by external environmental factors. It particularly affects children making them  more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. 

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What are the symptoms of hyperthermia?

Symptoms of hyperthermia include an elevation in core body temperature above 38°C (100.4°F), profuse sweating, flushed skin, and skin colour changes to red. As the body attempts to cool down, there is an increase in heart rate, resulting in rapid breathing. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting may also occur. Depending on the severity, hyperthermia can lead to seizures. Children may experience additional symptoms such as tiredness and dizziness due to dehydration. 

What can aggravate hyperthermia in kids?

Children are more susceptible to hyperthermia in hot and humid weather conditions due to their bodies being less efficient at regulating temperature. Inadequate ventilation, such as in a hot car or a poorly ventilated room, significantly increases the risk of heat stroke in children. Intense or prolonged physical activity, particularly in hot weather, can lead to dangerous heat buildup. Additionally, clothing style is crucial – wearing heavy, dark, or inappropriate clothing for the weather can impede heat dissipation and cause discomfort in children. 

What should you do?

Immediate actions include calling for emergency assistance and taking the child to the nearest medical facility. It's crucial to provide the child with fluids such as water, juice, or electrolyte solutions to rehydrate the body. Continuous monitoring of the child for any further complications is essential, as heatstroke can have lasting effects. 

How can hyperthermia in kids be prevented?

Ensure adequate hydration: Parents should ensure children consume the recommended daily water intake. For children aged 4-8, approximately 5 cups are advised, while older children should aim for 7-8 cups per day. 

Breezy clothing: It is advisable for children to wear light, breathable, and loose-fitting garments to mitigate heat-related risks.

Educate creatively: Raise awareness among kids about heat stroke resulting from hyperthermia using visually engaging materials. Visual aids have proven to be particularly impactful in capturing children's attention and enhancing retention.

Take a break: To minimize exposure to sunlight, take care to incorporate frequent breaks during physical activities such as running or cycling. Plan outdoor activities during evening hours to reduce the risk of heat stroke.

It's imperative to educate children about hyperthermia and heat stroke to safeguard their safety and well-being, particularly during hot weather conditions. Through awareness of the causes, recognition of symptoms, and adoption of preventive measures, children can effectively mitigate the risks of hyperthermia. Parents, teachers, and guardians play a vital role in creating a supportive environment for children, fostering a safer and more informed community capable of addressing the challenges posed by hot weather and preventing heat-related illnesses. 

Dr Ravi Kyadegerri is consultant- Neonatology & Pediatrics at Apollo Cradle & Children’s Hospital, Bengaluru. 

Also read: From road rage to anxiety – Understanding noise pollution’s impact on health

 

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First Published:23 Jun 2024, 06:00 PM IST
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