Cool Rules: Preventing Heat Stress In Special Needs Children
Recognize and Properly Treat Signs of Heat Stress
Heat illness can happen quickly or develop over the course of several days of heat exposure without proper rehydration. Improper treatment of heat stress can cause skin and organ damage, and if it continues to progress, death can occur. Even mild signs of heat stress that respond to treatment means the day’s activities are over as it can take hours for the body to recover from dehydration and overheating. Heading back into the game can lead to a rapid progression into heat stroke, a life threatening condition. Your child should spend the rest of the day properly rehydrating someplace cool and sheltered from the sun. If your child has heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or known inability to properly sweat then call his doctor as you begin treating suspected heat stress of any kind.
Level 1: Heat Cramps
These are usually in the abdomen or legs and are a sign of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
Level 2: Heat Exhaustion
As dehydration and electrolyte imbalances worsen and as your child’s body temperature begins to climb as high as 102, heat exhaustion develops. Your child might have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Heavy sweating or moist and cool skin
- Heat cramps
- Tiredness or weakness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid, shallow breathing
Do’s and Don’ts of Treating Heat Cramps and Heat Exhaustion
DO: Move the child to an air conditioned environment. If this is not possible then find a cool, shaded location.
DO: Loosen or remove clothing.
DO: Begin rehydrating with water or clear juices. Also make sure that the child has an opportunity to replace the salts and minerals (electrolytes) that are lost while sweating.
DO: Use gentle stretches and ice packs if your child complains of leg cramps.
DO: Use a cool shower, sponge bath, or water from a hose to cool the skin.
According to Dr. Don Arnold, M.D., M.P.H., a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, “The best way to cool a child quickly is the ‘wet and windy’ approach. Using cool or cold water or compresses in conjunction with a fan to literally blow the heat off of the child’s body will bring their temperature down faster– even faster than immersion in a cold bath.”
DO NOT: Give ice cold drinks as they do not absorb as easily as cool drinks and can cause stomach cramps.
DO NOT: Give sugary drinks, caffeinated beverages, or adult sports drinks as this can worsen dehydration.
DO NOT: Use rubbing alcohol, ice water or ice baths.
DO NOT: Give medicines like Tylenol or Motrin then delay treatment while waiting for them to lower your child’s body temperature.
DO NOT: Massage leg cramps.
DO NOT: Put ice packs directly on skin without a protective fabric layer between the ice and the skin.
DO NOT: Delay calling 911 if symptoms do not get better after an hour of cooling, rest, and rehydration or if symptoms worsen.
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