Summer Health in the Summer Heat
As you may have already noticed, this summer is going to be a hot one. Meteorologists are expecting record highs for both the Northeast and Southwest. Though your energetic, on-the-go tots may not care, their bodies might. For that reason, this month we will be focusing on heat related illnesses, their symptoms, and what you can do to stay healthy and happy in the hot, hot heat.
Heat rash occurs primarily in infants and babies, but can pop up in older children as well. The underdeveloped sweat glands get blocked and irritated, producing clusters of tiny, often moist, little red bumps that resemble pimples or blisters, and affects mostly clothed areas, such as the groin and armpits. This condition is not serious, but it can cause itching and discomfort. For this reason, if you notice the tell tale signs of heat rash, be sure to get your child into a cool, dry environment, give the affected areas some time to breathe, and it should clear up on its own. For more serious cases, apply an OTC hydrocortisone or calamine lotion for a few days until symptoms subside.
Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke
Heat exhaustion is not uncommon for kids, especially those who participate in outdoor sports and activities during the summer months. Though heat exhaustion is benign and comes on slowly, it is important to recognize and treat the symptoms before more serious issues occur.
If your child appears to have increased thirst, weakness, muscle cramps, cool, clammy skin, nausea or vomiting after or during time in the heat, this could be a sign that heat exhaustion is rearing its ugly head. Don’t panic, just be sure to get them into a cool place and get 2-4 glasses of water in them every hour until the symptoms subside.
We know this is easier than it sounds. If your child is particularly athletic and competitive, it can be hard to pull them out of the middle of a soccer game if something seems wrong, but you should, and this is why: Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.
Heatstroke is categorized by headache, weakness, confusion, rapid breathing, and in some cases, even loss of consciousness or seizures. Much of this is because of a high elevation of body temperature, sometimes over 105 degrees, which can be very dangerous. If any of these more serious symptoms occur, it’s safe to say it is time for an emergency room visit.
Sunburns are bound to happen, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Minor sunburns will redden and later, will peel revealing new, bright pink skin. Contrary to popular belief, icing does not help and will more than likely subject your tot to more pain than is necessary. Instead, give your child age-appropriate pain medication and apply a 1% hydrocortisone solution to the burn. Do your best to keep your child out of the sun until the peeling stops and the redness is gone to prevent further damage.
If the sunburn produces blisters and/or fever, it may be time to make an appointment. Infections have been known to arise in these cases, and it’s best to get it checked out.
Even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to spend long days with your tot outside in the shade, sunscreen is a must. For babies over 6 months and children, it’s worth spending a few extra dollars for “chemical-free” sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. The SPF should be over 15, but there is little need to go above 30. The amount of added protection after that point is minimal and the unwanted chemical count may rise. It’s also a good idea to reapply every 2-3 hours, especially if your little one is particularly active. For babies 6 months and younger, sunscreen is not advised, so keep them in the shade or inside on hot days as much as possible.
As you know, drinking lots of fluids is the number one rule for staying healthy in the heat, but this is particularly important for children as they are more susceptible to heat-related illness. And the best fluid? Water. Just plain, old water. We know sweet sports drinks look really good when you’re sweating it out in the middle of July, but they won’t do nearly as much as a big glass of H2O.
We are also giving you permission to go summer shopping! Keeping your child in light-colored, loosely fit clothing is a great way to stay cool. But be advised, clothing is only the equivalent of 10 SPF, so be sure to cover their little bodies in sunscreen no matter what.
And finally, during these summer months many may feel pressured to get outside as much as humanly possible to take advantage of the warmth while it lasts, but don’t. Limiting your outdoor activities to mornings and evenings and spending days in cool, air-conditioned places, particularly when temperatures creep over 90 degrees, will certainly help keep both you and your tot healthy though the sweltering months ahead.