July 12, 2011
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With summer in full force, many parents are excited to get – and keep – their kids outside and active. However, having kids spend hours on end in the heat can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. The pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. The skin can be cool and moist; sweating may or may not occur. If untreated, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke which includes a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating), rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and or unconsciousness. Heat stroke is a VERY serious condition.
Here are some guidelines on keeping your kids safe in high summer temps:
Maintain Proper Hydration
- Before physical activity, children should be well-hydrated and should not feel thirsty.
- Kids should have water or a sports drink always available and drink every 20-minutes while playing in the heat. Excessively hot and humid environments, more prolonged and strenuous exercise, and copious sweating should be reasons for children to substantially increase their fluid intake.
- Although water is usually recommended, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that a “flavored beverage may be preferable because the child may drink more of it,” including sports drinks.
- Fluids to avoid include those with caffeine, carbonation, alcohol or with a lot of sugar (total carb content of more than 6-8%), such as soda, fruit juices and some sports drinks.
Monitor Physical Activity
- Intense activities that last 15-minutes or more should be reduced whenever high heat and humidity reach critical levels.
- Practices and games played in the heat should be shortened and more frequent water/hydration breaks should be instituted. Children should seek cooler environments if they feel excessively hot or fatigued.
- After an hour of exercise, children need to drink a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage in order to replace electrolytes lost in sweat and to provide carbohydrates for energy.
Protect Against the Sun
- Clothing should be light-colored, lightweight and limited to one layer. Any clothing that is sweat-saturated should be replaced by dry clothing.
- Apply sunscreen early and often and be sure to use SPF 30 or above. Sunscreen should be applied evenly, all over the body, and early enough to protect during the “burning hours” (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Reapply sunscreen frequently, at least every two hours, and especially after swimming, toweling off.
- Although sunscreen can provide protection for several hours, it doesn’t fully protect your children from harmful UV rays. New clothing and gear technology now allow kids to stay cooler and play longer.
Most importantly, make sure that your child recognizes the symptoms of heat related illnesses and knows to get help even if told to keep playing. And remember that heat related illnesses don't just affect football players; they can affect children participating in almost any activity in the heat.
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