Summer Safety

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Protecting Children and Older Adults from Excessive Summer Temperatures

When temperatures reach extreme levels, the intense heat can be dangerous. Heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses can cause serious health problems, especially for infants, young children, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, what to do if someone has them, and also how to keep cool and remain healthy when temperatures are high. The best way to avoid heat-related illnesses is to create a cool, healthy environment and avoid spending time outdoors or in other places where temperatures are high.

Recommended tips include:

Heat Health Hazards

Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is unable to cool itself through perspiration. Common forms of heat–related illness are heat stroke (or sunstroke), heat exhaustion and heat cramps

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke (or sun stroke) is the most serious heat-related illness and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include hot, dry and red skin; a rapid pulse; a body temperature above 103 degrees F; loss of alertness; confusion; unconsciousness or coma; or rapid/shallow breathing. If any of these symptoms are present, immediately call 911 and the parent – this is a medical emergency.

While waiting for medical assistance to arrive, move the child to a cool place, use an air conditioner or fan, and apply wet sponges. Wrapped ice packs may be placed on the neck, wrists, ankles or armpits to help cool the body temperature. Do not give the heat stroke victim fluids.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is less dangerous than heat stroke, and is often caused by overexertion in hot or humid temperatures. Symptoms include heavy sweating; fainting; cold, pale and clammy skin; dizziness or headaches; nausea or vomiting; fainting and weakness.

If symptoms occur, the victim should be moved to a cool area out of direct sunlight. Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible and give sips of water to the individual every 15 minutes for one hour. If vomiting occurs, immediately stop giving the water and seek medical attention immediately and call parent.

Sunburn

Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself. Signals include redness and pain; in severe cases, swelling of skin, blisters, fever, and headaches can occur.

Ointments can be a relief for pain in mild cases. A physician should see serious cases. Call parent if symptoms are severe.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion. Loss of water and salt from sweating causes cramping. Signals are abdominal and leg muscle pain.

Relief can be firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massages to relieve cramping. Heat cramps are characterized by painful spasms, usually in muscles of the legs and abdomen and by heavy sweating. To relieve heat cramps, apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage the muscles. And as in the case of heat exhaustion, give sips of water every 15 minutes for one hour. Call parent if symptoms are severe and the child can’t participate in activities.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation that appears as a red cluster of pimples or small blisters, and is the least serious heat-related illness.

A person should be moved to a cool place and the affected area should be kept dry. Talcum powder may be used to promote comfort. Report symptoms to parent at pick up time.

Don’t forget about children’s mental health, too. Children may become anxious or restless from being kept indoors. You may want to plan ahead for indoor entertainment and games. Children may also become fearful or stressed from effects of the heat. Reassure children that many people are working to keep them safe.

Children take their cues from their parents and caregivers, so remember to keep calm and answer their questions openly and honestly. Keep in mind not to share more than is appropriate for their age.

Where's Baby? Look before you lock!

Infants and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of extreme heat and must rely on others to keep them safe. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s body temperature can increase three to five times as quickly as an adult’s.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, on average, every 10 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle. These deaths are preventable, and everyone in the community, especially child care providers, has a role to play in protecting our children.

Here are a few simple things you can do:

  • Make it part of your everyday routine to account for all children in your care. Set up backup systems to check and double-check that no child is left in the vehicle. Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle—even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running with the air conditioning on. Vehicles heat up quickly; if the outside temperature is in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down 2 inches.
  • Always make a habit of looking in the vehicle—front and back—before locking the door and walking away.
  • Get in touch with designated family members if a child who is regularly in your care does not arrive as expected.
  • Create reminders to ensure that no child is accidentally left behind in the vehicle. Place an item that is needed at your final destination in the back of the vehicle next to the child or place a stuffed animal in the driver’s view to indicate that a child is in the car seat.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle. If he or she is in distress due to heat, get the child out as soon as possible and cool him or her down rapidly.