Safe Fun in the Sun: Knowing the Signs of Heat-Related Injuries

Fun in the Sun Can be DangerousAs record-shattering temperatures continue across the nation, parents need to be aware that the intense heat is especially difficult on children-so, unfortunately, what seems like ordinary whining might be a signal of something more serious.

Kids are more likely than adults to experience heat-related injuries such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, and prickly skin rash. They don't sweat as effectively as adults and their smaller bodies absorb more heat because they have a high ratio of surface area to body mass.

Heat Wave Especially Dangerous for Kids

"It is important to be aware of signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion," Dr. Jerold Stirling told Yahoo! Shine. Dr. Stirling is chair of the department of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and pediatrician at Loyola University Health System.

"Ten percent of dehydration has already occurred before you experience thirst," Dr. Stirling said. Some common symptoms are: headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, irritability, thirst, and fatigue. If parents notice these symptoms, they should get their child out of the sun, get them to drink cold water, place cool compresses on their arms and legs, have them sit in a chair with their legs elevated above their heart, and call 911 if symptoms continue or do not improve.

Heat exhaustion is a precursor to a heat stroke, which is a serious medical condition when the body can no longer sweat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are a red and flushed face, excessive sweating, and feeling of warmth. If parents notice any of these symptoms it is important to get their child out of the sun immediately and into a cool place where they can replenish fluids.

Prickly skin rash often occurs in infants, who are unable to sweat as effectively as adults. This uncomfortable red rash is caused when sweat blocks the pores, and it often looks worse than it actually is. The best treatment is lightweight clothing and keeping the baby's skin dry so the perspiration can evaporate.

While children can still take advantage of the hot summer days outside, there are some precautions parents need to take. Children should dress in loose, light clothing and drink water throughout the day. Parents need to monitor children and have them take breaks in the shade or inside to rehydrate. A good rule of thumb if kids are going to be engaged in very active play is 8 ounces of water after twenty minutes outdoors, says Dr. Stirling.

In addition, "make sure children are hydrated before they go outside and avoid caffeine because it helps facilitate loss of fluids," said Dr. Stirling.

Children only need sport drinks like Gatorade if they are doing intense exercise for over an hour and should always avoid drinking soda in high heats since the caffeine and carbonation be dehydrating.

Also parents should recognize when the heat is too extreme for their children. Dr. Stirling says that there is no set temperature that is too hot for kids. "It depends on the child's size and age," he says. "Certainly you should be more cautious will smaller children, infants, overweight children and children with health issues."

While swimming is a great option on hot days since the water is cooling, parents should still make sure that children are drinking water and re-applying sunscreen throughout the day.

And the worst place for a child on a hot day? Inside a closed car. "The car creates a greenhouse effect and the temperature is often 10-15 degrees higher. There is no heat circulation." Said Dr. Stirling.

Remember, what seems unbearable to you will be even hotter to your child. So while the great weather means fun in the sun to kids, parents need to be able to recognize medical symptoms of sun over-exposure to ensure that their kids are safe.

Also on Shine:
7 Bizarre, Discontinued Olympic Sports to Try With Your Kids
Now and Then: 8 Summer Memories My Children Won't Have
How to Raise A Swimmer When You're Afraid of Water