Are children more at risk for heat-related illness?

Are children more at risk for heat-related illness?

Spending time outdoors is wonderful for a child’s health, but with temperatures on the rise, heat can pose a real risk.

“The higher temperatures get, the more cautious parents need to be,” warns Dr. Julie Holland, a pediatrician and vice president of pediatric primary care at the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance. “Children become dehydrated much more quickly than adults because they have a smaller body mass to surface area ratio. Their bodies also use more water than an adult’s body because of their higher metabolic rate. Many young children aren’t able to communicate when they need water, so it’s important for parents to help their child manage their intake and push fluids, especially during a heat wave.”

Dr. Holland points out that children don’t understand the importance of limiting exertion on hot days. Instead of keeping kids indoors the entire day during a period of hot weather, get outside in the early morning or evening and dress them in light, loose-fitting and breathable clothing.

She acknowledges how difficult it can be to encourage children to drink an appropriate amount of water to stay hydrated.

“Try to make drinking water more fun by adding fruit slices to water, making different-shaped ice cubes or having your child pick out their own special water bottle,” Dr. Holland says.

Monitor your child for signs of dehydration, which can include dizziness, nausea, headaches, fewer bathroom trips and irritability. Children should urinate every 6-8 hours at a minimum. If they are urinating less frequently or if their urine is dark in color, they may be dehydrated.

If you notice these signs, give them water or an oral rehydration solution. Avoid sugary drinks, which can make dehydration worse. Call your child’s pediatrician if you do not notice improvement after rehydrating or if your baby is 6 months or younger.

Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Find one in Illinois or Wisconsin. 

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.