Helping kids of all ages to live a more active life through FUNctional movement.
Summer is the time to get outside! From the sports fields, to cottage weekends or fun on the beach, nothing beats outdoor adventures with the family on a sunny summer day. But when temperatures rise, there are certain precautions that we need to take in order to keep ourselves and our little ones safe from heat illness. This article will go over the signs and symptoms of heat illness, the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke and tips and tricks to stay cool this summer.
“Heat-related illness” is an umbrella term for all conditions caused by overexposure to heat, including heat rash, heat syncope (fainting), heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These conditions range in severity from mild discomfort to life threatening emergencies. In fact, exertional heat stroke is one of the most common causes of on-field sudden death in athletes. Although many of us will use the term “heat stroke” when describing any sort of heat related condition, it’s important to recognize the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke in order to provide appropriate care.
The main difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke is the level of severity. Heat exhaustion is when the body’s thermoregulation system – our body’s inner climate control – is starting to overwork in order to keep the body’s temperature down. Heat stroke, on the other hand, is a life-threatening condition where the thermoregulation system cannot keep up and body temperature rises to dangerous levels, above 40℃ (104 ℉). It is the most serious type of heat-related illness and usually happens when signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are missed. Although children have the physiological ability to regulate body temperature, they sometimes fail to recognize the early symptoms when they are distracted while playing and having fun.
Heat exhaustion can look like…
Heat stroke, on the other hand, can look like…
Research has found that the quicker you recognize the signs and symptoms and begin to reduce a person’s core temperature, the better the outcomes. Here are the best strategies for quickly lowering a child or adult’s body temperature:
If you think the condition has worsened and they may be experiencing heat stroke… this is a medical emergency! Call 911 immediately and begin the above cooling methods while waiting for care.
Of course it is always preferred to avoid any sort of heat related conditions in the first place. There are many strategies you can take in order to protect yourself and your loved ones. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure you stay properly hydrated. This goes for your overall health, but is especially important during the hotter months where you may be sweating more than usual. The easiest way to spot dehydration is by darker coloured urine, as well as less frequent urination or a smaller volume of urine. With the little ones, you can get a fun coloured bottle and encourage them to drink water frequently before, during and after physical activity. You can also include more fruits and vegetables in their diet which have a high water content – cue the orange slices and watermelon! It’s also important to be aware of the weather report. Hotter days will obviously put you more at risk for heat illness, but don’t forget about humidity. A higher humidex, even on days that aren’t so warm, will prevent sweat from evaporating, which is our bodies’ main cooling mechanism. On days where it is hot or humid, you can avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the hotter times of the day (11am-3pm) and always include frequent breaks in a cooler shaded area. When getting dressed, think of loose, light coloured and breathable materials for clothes. Those sunny summer days are also a perfect time to try fun water activities like going to your community pool, splash pad or running through the sprinkler in the backyard.
All in all, be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat illness but don’t let that stop you from getting outside in the summer. Making small adjustments to playtime can make all the difference and remember to have a plan in place in case someone does start to overheat. Let us know in the comments how your family likes to stay cool in the summer!