As temperatures are forecast to hit record highs in parts of the country, public health experts warn that children are more prone to heat stroke More so than adults — especially when they’re on a sports field, living without air conditioning, or waiting in a parked car.
Cases of heat-related illnesses are rising with average temperatures, and experts say almost half of those who get sick are children. There are two reasons for this: Children’s bodies have a harder time regulating their temperature than adults, and they rely on adults to help protect them from overheating.
Parents, coaches, and other caregivers may experience the same heat very differently from their children, and they may have difficulty recognizing dangerous situations or spotting early symptoms of heat-related illnesses in children.
“Children are not little adults,” said Dr. Aaron Bernsteina pediatric resident at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Simple and emptyA California meteorologist recalled being surprised by the effects of car heat. On a July afternoon more than two decades ago, the temperature reached 86 degrees, when a baby in San Jose died of heatstroke after being left behind in a parked car.
Null said he was asked after his death by a reporter, “How hot was that car?”
Null ends up conducting research with two Stanford emergency physicians gave an amazing answer. Within an hour, the temperature in that car could exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Their research shows that for a child left in the car, rushing errands can be dangerous—even on a mild day with a cracked window, if it takes less than 15 minutes.
as record heat become More frequentSerious risk even to healthy adults, the number of cases of heat-related illness It levitated, including children. Most at risk are young children in parked vehicles and teens returning to school and playing sports on the hottest day of the year.
Over 9,000 high school athletes Get treatment for heat-related illnesses every year.
Heat-related illnesses occur when exposed to heat and humidity, which can be exacerbated by physical exertion that exceeds the body’s ability to cool itself. Cases range from mild, like a benign heat rash in babies, to more severe, when the body’s core temperature rises. This can lead to a life-threatening heat stroke event, which can be diagnosed once the body temperature rises above 104 degrees, potentially leading to organ failure.
Prevention is the key. Experts stress that drinking plenty of water, avoiding going outdoors during the hot noon and afternoon, and taking your time as you adapt to exercise are the most effective methods. avoid getting sick.
Research shows that children’s bodies take longer to increase sweat production and adjust to a warmer environment than adults. Younger children are also more prone to dehydration because most of their body weight is water.
Babies and young children also have a harder time regulating their body temperature, in part because they often don’t know when to drink more water or undress to cool down. A 1995 study Research shows that toddlers who spend 30 minutes in a 95-degree room find their core temperature is significantly higher than their mothers’ and rises faster — although relative to their size, they sweat more than adults.
Pediatrician Advice for caregivers monitor how much water a child consumes And encourage them to drink before they ask for it. Thirst indicates that the body is dehydrated.
They should also dress their children in light-colored, lightweight clothing; limit outdoor time during the hottest times; and look for ways to cool down, such as going to an air-conditioned place like the library, taking a cool shower or going for a swim.
speech Student-athlete risksNational Association of Athletic Trainers recommend High school athletes adjust to the new season by gradually building up their activities over two weeks, including by slowly increasing the amount of any protective gear they wear.
“You build this intensity gradually over a week to two weeks so your body can get used to the heat,” said NATA President Kathy Dieringer.
Warning Signs and Solutions
Symptoms of heatstroke, including flushing, fatigue, muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, vomiting and profuse sweating, can develop into heatstroke if left untreated, experts say. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen, such as if your child seems disoriented or cannot drink alcohol.
take immediate action Cooling a child with heat stroke or heat stroke is critical. Bring your child to the shade; give cool liquids containing salt, such as sports drinks; remove sweaty or heavy clothing.
For teens, soaking in an ice bath is the most effective way to cool down, while younger kids can wrap in a cold, wet towel or spray with warm water and place in front of a fan.
Although deaths of children in parked cars are well documented, tragic event keep happening. According to federal statistics, 23 children die from car heatstroke in 2021. null, who collects their datasaid 12 children have died so far this year.
Null said caregivers should not leave children alone in parked cars. Take steps to prevent young children from getting into the car on their own and getting trapped, including locking the car when it is parked at home.
He said more than half of car heatstroke cases in children were caused by caregivers who accidentally left a child behind. While in-vehicle technology that reminds adults to check the back seat is becoming more common, only a small percentage of vehicles have it, requiring parents to come up with their own methods, such as putting a plush toy in the front seat.
The good news, Null says, is that simple behavior changes can protect children. “It’s 100 percent preventable,” he said.
Living in Lower-income areas are worse off when the temperature rises. Using air conditioners (including the ability to pay electricity bills) is a serious health concern.
Thermal Studies in Urban Areas Data released last year showed that low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color experienced significantly higher temperatures than wealthy white residents.In poorer areas in summer, the temperature Up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit.
The study’s authors say their findings in the United States reflect ” Legacy of the Red Line Looming,” referring to federal housing policy refusing to insure mortgages in or near predominantly Black communities.
“These areas have less tree canopy, more streets, and higher building density, which means that, among other racist outcomes, the redline policy directly codifies existing urban land-use differences and strengthens the amplification of urban heating to urban design choices today,” they concluded.
This month, Bernstein, who leads Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, co-authored a review in JAMA arguing that advancing health equity is critical to combating climate change.
center Partner with frontline health clinics Helping their predominantly low-income patients cope The impact of climate change on healthHe said federally-backed clinics alone provide care to about 30 million Americans, including many children.
Bernstein also recently led a national study The study found that from May to September, warmer days were associated with increased visits to children’s hospital emergency rooms. Many visits were more directly linked to heat, although the study also pointed to how heat can exacerbate existing health conditions, such as neurological disorders.
“Through how these climate shocks reshape the world they grow up in, children are more vulnerable to climate change,” Bernstein said.
Helping people better understand the health risks of extreme heat and how to protect themselves and their families is one of the major challenges for the public health system, experts say.
The National Weather Service’s heat warning system is largely based on the Heat Index, which is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is combined with air temperature.
But the alert has nothing to do with health effects, says Kathy Bowman McLeod, Director of the Adrienne Asht-Rockefeller Foundation Center for Resilience. When temperatures rise to levels where weather alerts are issued, many vulnerable people – such as children, pregnant women and the elderly – may already be experiencing heat stroke or heat stroke.
The center has developed a new heat warning system that is being tested in Seville, Spain, one of the hottest cities in history in Europe.
The system combines metrics such as air temperature and humidity with public health data to classify heatwaves and, when they are severe enough, give them names — making it easier to understand heatwaves as environmental threats that require preventive action.
These categories are determined by a metric called excess deaths, which compares how many people die in a day with predicted temperatures compared to an average day. This may help health officials understand the severity of heatwaves and make informed recommendations to the public based on risk factors such as age or medical history.
The health-based alert system will also allow officials to target caregivers of children and seniors through the school system, preschools and senior centers, Baughman McLeod said.
Giving people better ways to conceptualize heat is critical, she said.
“It’s not dramatic. It’s not going to rip the roof off your house,” Bowman McLeod said. “It’s silent and invisible.”
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that provides in-depth news coverage on health issues.Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of the top three operating programs in the U.S. KFC (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a donating non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the state.