Summertime means playtime, but playtime in overbearing heat can cause heat exhaustion and heat strokes in little folks. Whether these crumb-snatchers are playing baseball, sweltering on basketball courts or kicking the ball on soccer fields, the sun can play havoc on these young, fast-moving bodies.
Fortunately, the creator gave us a built-in cooling system that turns on instantly when the body becomes overheated. This system works fine if we don’t overdo it. As soon as the body determines that the core (inner) body temperature is rising too fast, sweat glands open up and produce a layer of water on the skin. As the fluid evaporates from the surface, cooling takes place.
Little folks don’t sweat as readily as adults. This can cause a rapid increase in the core temperature, leading to the malfunction of the cardiovascular system. Young folks also absorb a greater amount of heat from the environment, which can increase body temperature. Although sweating is beneficial, it causes a loss of body fluids and electrolytes (sodium and potassium). This can lead to heat exhaustion, characterized by light-headedness, nausea, headaches, weakness and a fast heart rate.
When heat exhaustion occurs, the youngster should be removed to a cooler place and given cold compresses for their arms, legs and behind the neck. If possible, sponge their exposed body with equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water. Offer water or Gatorade. In serious cases, Emergency Medical Services should be called.
Heat stroke is more serious than heat exhaustion. In such a case, the youngster should be taken to the emergency room immediately. Symptoms of heat stroke include dry, hot skin; a temperature as high as 105 degrees; a rapid but strong pulse; and personality changes or odd behaviors.
Treatment for this condition is the following:
- Restrict fluids by mouth.
- Evaluate the cardiovascular system.
- Move the person to a cool place.
- Undress the victim completely.
- Apply a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water over the total body—except for the head—to help lower the body temperature.
To prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke in little folks, I suggest the following:
- Make sure they have adequate fluids before, during and after a game.
- Make sure they wear clothing that breathes.
- Do not allow children to play until exhausted. Let them sit on the sidelines for a few innings. Cancel the game if it’s too hot.
- Spray a cool mist on the face to cool the body down.
- Make sure a canvas shelter such as a tent is available.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and know what to do in an emergency situation while awaiting further medical assistance.