This past weekend, many teachers in our program attended a CPR and first aid training certification course. Coming in on Saturday morning, the teachers began learning about a litany of lifesaving techniques to implement in the event of a handful of scenarios. In addition to learning how to do compressions, save someone who’s choking, and treat frostbite, the dangers and treatment of heat exhaustion and heatstroke were discussed. As we find ourselves in the dog days of summer, it is essential that we all know the signs of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke as well as what to do if a child, or anyone for that matter, is exhibiting those signs.

Firstly, it is important to understand what heat exhaustion and heat stroke are. As described in the National Safety Council (NSC) manual distributed to each of the teachers a
t the training, heat exhaustion, “develops when the body becomes dehydrated in a hot environment” (NSC, 2016, p.93). Initial signs for heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, thirst, fatigue, and heat cramps. As heat exhaustion progresses and if untreated, the later signs for it include headache or dizziness and nausea or vomiting. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, the NSC (2016) advises the following:

  • Move the child out of the heat to rest in a cool place. Loosen or remove any unnecessary clothing.
  • Cool the child with a cool water spray or wet cloths on the forehead and body.
  • Give the child a sports drink, 2% milk, or coconut water. If none of these are available, give the child water.

If the child’s condition doesn’t improve or gets worse within 30 minutes, you should seek medical care as unrelieved heat exhaustion may develop into heatstroke which is categorized by the NSC (2016, p.93) as a true medical emergency. This is because if left untreated, heatstroke usually results in death. Signs of heatstroke include:

Skin flushed and very hot to the touch, sweating may have stopped

Fast breathing

Headache, dizziness or confusion

Irrational behavior

Possible convulsions or unresponsiveness

If your child is experiencing these symptoms, the NSC (2016, p.94) advises the following:

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Move the child to a cool place.
  • Remove outer clothing.
  • Immediately cool the child with any means at hand, preferably by immersing the child up to the neck in cold water (with the help of a second rescuer). If immersion in cold water is not possible, place the child in a cold shower or move to a cool area and cover as much of the body as possible with cold, wet towels.
  • Do not try to force the child to drink liquids
  • Monitor the child’s breathing

The danger associated with heat stroke cannot be understated and it is essential in these warm months to be aware of the danger and be prepared in case of emergency. Additionally, though these conditions may happen as a result of physical exertion on hot days, cloudy days with mild temperatures are not necessarily free of danger either. For Consumer Reports, Emily A. Thomas, Ph.D (2018) discusses this and provides some useful tips in an article entitled, “Summer Car Safety for Kids” (for the purposes of this post, there are two tips that will be focused on but the link is cited at the end of this article for your knowledge).

On Thomas’ list she includes, “Never Leave a Child Alone in the Car”. She explains that temperatures inside a car rise quickly and, even on those cooler, cloudy days, can result in heatstroke. Many of us have read or heard the horror stories of parents leaving their child alone in the car as they run an errand. These stories often times end in a horrible, fatal result. Though many are aware of the dangers associated with hot cars, it is important to continue to reiterate this point as avoiding this outcome is within our control.

Something that may not be widely considered for children’s summer car safety, as discussed by Thomas, is that we should, “Always Keep Vehicles Locked”. Though this is a good practice to prevent against things in your car being stolen, Thomas brings up this point because, “Cars can be a tempting play area for young children…  Some deaths in hot cars have occurred when children were playing in them unattended” (Thomas, 2018). Overall, unaccompanied children and cars are not a good mix. By utilizing these tips, knowing the dangers of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and knowing what to do if your child shows symptoms of these conditions, we can keep children safe and have a great summer!

References:

National Safety Council. (2016). Heat Emergencies. Pediatric First Aid, CPR & AED, 93-94.

Thomas, E. A. (2018, May 27). Summer Car Safety for Kids. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.consumerreports.org/car-safety/summer-car-safety-for-kids/