Cool Rules: Preventing Heat Stress In Special Needs Children
Cool Rule #2: Understand Your Child’s Medications & Treatments
A medication can contribute to dehydration if
- It increases metabolism.
- It decreases appetite, upsets the stomach, or has diarrhea as a side effect.
- It increases urination (a diuretic).
A medication can contribute to overheating if
- It decreases sweating.
- It increases metabolism.
Chemotherapy and medication with a photosensitivity warning increase the risk of sunburn which can lead to both overheating and dehydration.
Call your pharmacist and ask her to review your child’s medications for heat stress risk factors.
Cool Rule #3: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Encourage fluids before, during and after outdoor play regardless of activity level.
Enforce frequent drink breaks, preferably in the shade.
Sneak in fluids by offering foods that have a high liquid content like fresh fruit, popsicles, jello, yogurt and fruit sauces.
Prepare your own low sugar frozen snacks to cool and rehydrate.
Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks as they can increase urination and cause dehydration.
Thirst is actually a sign that the body is becoming dehydrated. “But I’m not thirsty” means you’re staying on top of your child’s hydration.
If your child is tube fed, ask his doctor for guidelines on how much and what type of extra fluid you should give if your child will be exposed to hot weather.
If your child cannot communicate his needs or you know there will be problems surrounding making him drink extra fluids then create a hot weather hydration plan with a physician or therapist.
Peeing less often, dark or strong smelling urine, or crying without tears are warning signs of dehydration.
Cool Rule #4: Replace Electrolytes
Bananas, oranges, potatoes and green leafy vegetables are natural electrolyte replacers.
Salty foods replace lost sodium and can also encourage drinking.
Do not use sports drinks intended for adults – they can cause diarrhea and create dehydration.
If your child is diabetic or has cardiac or kidney issues then speak to his doctor about when and how to safely replace electrolytes.
Cool Rule #5: Cool Off Often
Pack portable umbrellas and canopies so you have back up shade for long days out.
If possible, take longer meal and rest breaks in air conditioning.
Construction workers and motorcyclists have used cooling accessories such as special vests, hats, and bandanas for years and many parents purchase or make their own similar cooling garments. Check with your child’s physician before you use a cooling garment.
Compression garments can trap heat and interfere with sweat evaporation. Limit using compression garments in hot weather and plan on removing it regularly for cooling breaks.
Combination compression/weighted garments are available. Some parents replace the weights with freezer packs to create a cooling pressure garment.
Portable fans that clip on or attach to keychains are easy to find during summer months. Make sure fan blades are soft and safe for little fingers.
Portable misting fans provide the important combination of moisture and evaporation that the body needs to cool. Give your child time to adjust to being “spritzed” to avoid unnecessary drama when you’re out.
Chill baby wipes or hand wipe packets in the cooler or fridge to cool and clean sweaty little faces.
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