Cool Rules: Preventing Heat Stress In Special Needs Children
Two Essential Heat Stress-Busters: Prevent Dehydration and Overheating
Dehydration is caused by a loss of fluids and essential minerals and salts (electrolytes). Even mild dehydration can interfere with the body’s ability to self-cool. Always pre-hydrate before a big day outdoors. Don’t stop encouraging extra liquids once the activity is over. You want to replace fluids and electrolytes lost during the day in order to prevent setting the stage for heat stress.
Gradually introduce your child to the heat by going outside for short amounts of times and increasing time and activity as tolerance grows. You should see your child produce more sweat sooner as they become acclimatized (this also means more fluids will be needed to replace what is lost with the increased sweating.) “It’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity” is really true. Once the relative humidity reaches 60%, sweat begins to stick to the skin instead of evaporating. A major part of the body’s cooling mechanism is lost. Be extra alert for signs of heat stress on humid days, especially if there is no wind.
Ask summer programs about their heat stress policies before the session begins. Discuss situations like un-air conditioned buses or length of time spent outdoors that could be a potential threat to your child’s health. If your summer plans include theme parks, contact Guest Services and ask how they can help you keep your child safe and cool during long, hot days. And practice these Cool Rules while you and your family are enjoying summer fun:
Cool Rule #1: Understand Your Child’s Medical Conditions
Medical conditions that effect metabolism such as Heart Disease, Heart Defects or Cystic Fibrosis increase the risk of dehydration.
Fluid restrictions can make it difficult to judge how much to hydrate without causing fluid overload.
Neurological conditions can interfere with appropriate sweating or the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
If your child was sick recently it is possible that they might already have some dehydration from reduced appetite, fever, or the effects of vomiting and diarrhea.
While exercise usually lowers blood sugar levels, if your Diabetic child does not exercise regularly, is being active at a different time of day than usual, is indulging in the fun foods often associated with outdoor activities, or has poorly controlled blood glucose levels then his blood glucose levels can rise. Increased urination and increased thirst is a sign of elevated blood sugar.
Children with medical conditions such as anhidrosis (lack of ability to sweat) or hypohidrosis (reduced ability to sweat) can become severely overheated very quickly at temperatures that might feel mild to you.
Speak to your child’s physician before the weather turns hot if he has a medical condition that might require a special plan for hydration.
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