Warmer weather invites activities and adventures. But what happens when things go awry? In this special five-part series, the real experts at NYU Langone Medical Center provide valuable tips to serve as your guide. Part 1:
Exposure to Extreme Temperatures
Rising temperatures and humidity can cause a range of symptoms including dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Most are familiar with dehydration, which is a loss of body fluids through sweating and physical exertion. Signs of dehydration in infants and children can include decreased urination or wet diapers, fewer or no tears when crying, dry or parched mouth, a sunken soft spot of the head in infants or toddlers, and decreased energy.
If early signs are not heeded, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion. This form of more severe dehydration is characterized by weakness, muscle cramps, pale skin, profuse sweating, dizziness, and nausea. If symptoms are not resolving with fluids and rest at home or become very severe (such as fainting), these children should be brought to an emergency department to get evaluated and treated.
The next progression of heat exhaustion is heat stroke, which is when the body stops being able to release its own heat. The body becomes so dehydrated it can’t sweat anymore, causing the body temperature to reach dangerous levels. This can lead to confusion, kidney damage, heart problems and, in the most extreme cases, fatality. Symptoms also include hot, flushed skin with high fever over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Every patient with heat stroke needs to be brought to the emergency room so they can be rapidly cooled and a thorough physical examination can be performed to determine if there is any organ damage.
To protect your child from extreme heat this summer: Plan to allow your child more time to rest when playing outside. Encourage your child to drink water or a sports drink frequently while playing in the heat. Try to find a cool (ideally air-conditioned) place to take breaks from playing outside. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen when outdoors. Never leave your child in a car or other closed vehicle, even if you plan to come back soon as temperatures inside a closed vehicle can rise to dangerous levels quickly.