With heat children at risk of heat illness. Here’s what to do

ROM – Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, these are the pathologies that can cause intense heat, associated with other aggravating factors (humidity, closed places, poor ventilation, thick clothing), especially in children. “To maintain a constant body temperature, our body generates heat, which it dissipates cools with sweat and conduction of the skin. This natural cooling system can, when very hot, gradually fail, allowing our body temperature to reach dangerous levels.” , explains Flavio Quarantiello, medical director at the Aorn S. Pio Benevento complex operating unit for pediatrics and adolescentology, in a published article on the website of the Italian Society of Pediatrics (Sip).

But how do heat diseases manifest themselves, and how can we intervene?

HEAT CRAMPS – “These are sudden, very painful, short-lived muscle contractions affect the muscles of the legs, arms, abdomen– explains Quarantiello- They can occur during or after intense physical activity in extremely hot conditions and they are due to the significant loss of fluids and salts due to intense sweating. Children are especially prone to get heat cramps when they do not drink enough fluid. Although very painful, heat cramps are not serious in themselves, but they can be first signs of more severe fever, so they should be treated immediately to avoid problems ”. What to do? The expert explains that it is necessary to “stop exercising immediately, take the child to a cool place by getting him to sit or lie down and offer the drink that contains sugar and mineral salts (so-called sports drinks). Stretching and gentle massage of the muscles involved are also helpful in relieving symptoms “.

EMPTYING HEAT– It is a more serious heat illness that occurs when a child in a hot climate or in a very hot (and closed) environment did not drink enough fluids. The expert explains that “symptoms may include increased thirst, weakness, dizziness or fainting, muscle cramps, nausea and / or vomiting, irritability, headache, increased sweating, cool and moist skin, elevated body temperature (<40 ° C)". What to do? Quarantiello emphasizes that we must "immediately take the child to a cooler and sheltered place from the sun either in an air-conditioned car in or in a shady area, remove excess clothing, encourage the child to drink cold water or liquid containing salts and sugars, such as sports drinks with frequent sips, wrapped with a towel wet with cold water or moisten the baby’s skin with fresh water “. And so”call 118 or your trusted pediatrician (a child who is too weak to drink may need intravenous hydration) ”. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion it can turn into heat strokemuch more serious disease.

HEDESLAG It’s “the most severe form of fever and it is a life-threatening medical emergency”, Emphasizes the expert. “With heat stroke, the body can no longer regulate its own temperature than it can rise up to above 41.1 ° C, causing brain damage or even death if not treated quickly. Intensive and urgent medical treatment is needed to control and lower body temperature. Children are at risk for heat stroke if they are excessively dressed or engage in strenuous physical activity in very hot weather and do not drink enough fluids. Heat stroke can also occur when a baby is is left or trapped in a car on a hot day. When the outside temperature is 34 ° C, the temperature inside a car can reach 52 ° C in just 20 minutes, causing the trapped child’s body temperature to rise rapidly to dangerous levels. ”

What to do in light of heat stroke? Primarily “Call 118 immediately”, notes Quarantiello. Symptoms of the child having heat stroke are: severe headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion, nausea, rapid breathing and pulse, loss of consciousness, cramps, little or no sweating, red, hot and red skin. dry, body temperature> 40 ° C. While waiting for 118 to arrive, “take the child to a cool or shady placemake him lie down and raise his lower extremities, undress him and bathe him with warm water if the child is awake, immerse him in a lukewarm bath if the child is awake and conscious, give frequent sips of cool, clear drinks, if the child vomits, turn it sideways to avoid suffocation, do not administer fluids if the child is not awake and conscious ”.


However, a number of measures can be taken to prevent heat diseases. Primarily “educate children to always drink well before and during physical activity during the summer season and when they are exposed to the sun for a long time, even if they are not thirsty – explains Quarantiello – then let them wear them loose, light clothing and light hats on very hot days, use protective sunscreen and moisturize head and neck frequently with fresh water if exposed to heat for extended periods of time. On hot or humid days, it is advisable to limit physical activity outdoors during the hottest hours “. And finally” to educate children to go to cool places sheltered from the sunand rest and hydrate immediately when they feel overheated, ”the expert concludes.

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