Last night was one of my scariest nights as a parent.
I was up all night with my 9-year-old son trying to keep down his 103 temperature.
He came home from a day at baseball camp with heat exhaustion. He complained of severe leg cramps, had no appetite or energy and had a 102 temperature.
He spent the entire day outside in the heat in his baseball pants, jersey and high socks … so I knew he would be tired. But how did I immediately know what he was suffering from and how serious it was?
I am a daughter of an ER doctor who has heard my entire life how dangerous heat illness can be, especially with children.
Our bodies create a tremendous amount of internal heat and are normally cooled through sweating and radiating heat through our skin.
In my son’s case, he was wearing too much clothing, and his skin was not exposed and was compromised.
Under certain circumstances — such as unusually high and humid temperatures like D.C. is experiencing this week, combined with vigorous exercise in hot weather — the natural cooling system can fail allowing internal heat to build up to dangerous levels.
The result may be heat illness, which can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or the very serious heatstroke.
Here are the symptoms of heat exhaustion that can lead to an often deadly heat illness to watch for in your child and how you can prevent it.
Dehydration, fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, hyperventilation (rapid breathing) and irritability.
Drink water or a sports drink before you go out in the heat (I insist that my kids drink Gatorade for breakfast when going to day camp in this heat).
I also pack one in their lunch along with a water bottle. Teach your child how important it is to drink water and insist that they take 10 big gulps during water breaks.
Salty foods also help, pretzels, potato chips, Pirate’s booty are great snacks for this type of weather. Parents watch for symptoms of heat exhaustion and take immediate action to cool your child by removing clothes, showering and using motrin to relieve the fever.
Also, hydrate them immediately! Wear light color clothes to allow the skin to breathe. Bottom line, no one not even professional athletes should be doing rigorous activities for more than an hour at time in this weather without plenty of fluids and breaks inside or in shade.
Let’s all have a healthy and safe summer…