5 Tips to Beat the Heat

1. Who is susceptible to Heat Illness? Children under the age of 4 and adults over the age of 65 are at most risk of becoming ill from the heat. Obesity, certain medications, some chronic illnesses and being overdressed all further increase the risk. Today, I’m focusing on kids but the idea is pretty much the same for seniors.

2. Why are kids more susceptible? Two reasons – their age and their stupidity. There are self-cooling mechanisms your body turns on when it gets hot. First, the cooling system in children, especially babies, is immature, leaving them more vulnerable to the heat. They produce more heat and sweat less. Secondly, they don’t know when they need to stop running around, drink some water, or get inside.

3. What happens as your body heats up? There is a spectrum of heat-related illness. The most mild form is heat cramps. These painful muscle cramps and spasms often occur first. Next, heat exhaustion occurs. As the body loses water and salt, nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache and a low-grade fever may occur. If left untreated, heat stroke follows. The symptoms include all of the above plus dry skin, a high fever, confusion and sleepiness. Seizures, coma and death can occur in severe cases.

4. How to treat heat-related illness. In its early stages, moving children to a cool place and giving them fluids should do the trick. Sports drinks and Pedialyte pops can be helpful in replacing fluid loss. Gently massage and stretch the muscles that are cramping. Ice packs, especially in the armpits and groin area can help to decrease body temperature – that sounds good, I may try it as soon as I finish writing. If you see no improvement and you are fairly sure they are not just enjoying all the attention, call your doctor or go to the ER. Fluid replacement via IV may be needed. If you are seeing the more severe signs mentioned above, don’t delay – call 911.

5. Prevention – Have I thoroughly ruined your day? Please don’t feel like you have to watch your kids like a hawk or entertain them inside all day. The best way to deal with the heat-illness is to not let it happen in the first place. If your children are old enough, take a minute to educate them about signs and symptoms of overheating. Demand that they stop playing every 1/2 hour or so and drink some water. Offer them things they like throughout the day. Watermelon, ice pops, fruit-flavored water and Gatorade should entice them. I just had my first strawberry water and it was delicious – the kids loved it. If your children are too young to recognize the symptoms, keep them in the shade, and sorry, you have to check on them every once in a while. Summer days can be long but maybe there is a nice cool beverage awaiting you at the end? Hey, grown-ups need hydration too.

First Published July 4, 2020

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness Coach. She helps clients with parenting issues, the challenges of college and young adulthood and issues related to health and habits. Email her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of the Audible Original, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents.


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