Let kids have plenty of fluids to combat heat, avoid illness

Tots to Teens

July 30, 1996|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

This hot summer weather really bothers me, but it doesn't seem to slow down my children at all. I try to get them to take it easy, but they don't pay attention. Should I just forget about it? Are children unusually resistant to heat?

You are right to be concerned about the effect of heat on children. Although most deaths during extreme heat are among the elderly, children -- particularly young children -- are also especially vulnerable. That may be because their sweat glands do not yet operate at full speed. It is important for you to interject a dose of common sense into your children during hot weather. Hot, humid weather is especially dangerous, because sweat does not evaporate as well when the humidity is high, depriving the body of one of its most important cooling mechanisms.

So what can you and your children do to avoid heat illness? Never leave your children shut up in closed, hot spaces like the car. Reports are made almost every summer of infants or toddlers dying of heat stress in that situation. Dress your children lightly, encourage them to drink plenty of fluids, provide them a place to cool off with a fan or air conditioning if you can, and limit extended hard exercise during the hottest part of the day.

When your children are exercising hard during hot weather, be certain they take water breaks. Send a jug of water with them when they head off to the park, out on their bikes or to the back yard to work in the garden. Heat stress can occur during exposure to hot temperatures even without exercise. No matter what they are doing in hot weather, if they develop a headache, nausea, cramps or dizziness, make sure they know to go inside (( and cool off.

Even when the temperature is not extreme, the fluid lost in sweat must be replaced. Many youth sports teams play during very hot weather. If your children participate, make certain each has a large drink of water before going and that all players take a water break at least every 30 minutes. By the time a child weighs about 120 pounds, at least 8 ounces are needed every half-hour during hard hot weather exercise. If your children look down their noses at water, one of the sports drinks is an acceptable, though more expensive, alternative.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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