It is vital to be aware of heat related illnesses in children, especially if they are entrusted to our care for summer programming. The entire staff should be briefed on prevention, identification, and treatment.
Most likely, a child experiencing an illness of this nature has a hard time knowing what is going on. They could be engaged in a lively game, they might feel confused as to how they are feeling, or they may feel uncomfortable talking to a staff member about it.
Have you faced this problem with kids in your ministry? You can share your stories about heat related illness below.
Prevention of Heat Related Illness
- Ensure that children utilize many opportunities for water breaks.
- Plan outside activities in the early morning hours or in the evening.
- When outside play is scheduled, meet in the shade or under a tent.
Identification of Heat Related Illness
According to WebMD, dehydration symptoms include thirst, fatigue, irritability, dry mouth, and feeling hot. As initial dehydration symptoms are ignored or unnoticed, heat illness with dehydration can occur. In that case, be on the lookout for these symptoms:
- Heat Cramps: Cramping in the abdomen, arms, or legs
- Heat Syncope: Weakness, fatigue, or fainting after activity
- Heat Exhaustion: Excessive perspiration, fatigue, headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, chills, weakness, cramping, severe thirst, irritability, blurred vision, and/or unconsciousness
- Heat Stroke: This is characterized by a high body temperature (104-105 degrees), nausea, vomiting, seizures, disorientation, hot dry skin, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, and decreased urination
Treatment of Heat Related Illness
- Get help immediately.
- Take the child to a cool, shady place.
- Encourage child to drink water and sports drinks (such as Gatorade).
- If he/she has layers of clothing on, have them remove the outer layers.
- Have the child lie down.
- Place a cool compress on his/her forehead.
- Monitor him/her carefully.
***If a child experiences any symptoms of Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke, this is a critical medical emergency. Seek immediate professional medical attention. Heat Stroke can be life threatening. Until an ambulance arrives, hydrate the child if they are conscious. Keep them cool by spraying water and applying ice compresses. Contact the parent or guardian immediately.
Above all, safety in our ministries is a priority. Prevention and awareness of Heat Related illnesses is key. Be on the lookout for signs of stress and keep everyone drinking plenty of water!