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Summer Safety for You and Your Kids

Heat Illness continued...

The risk of heat illness goes up during exertion and sports and with certain health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Alcohol use also increases the risk. So do medications that slow sweat production such as antihistamines.

Young children are especially vulnerable to heat illness. During the summer of 2003, at least 42 children in the U.S. died after being left in hot cars. What some people don't realize is that the temperature inside a car can climb much higher than temperatures outside during a sunny day. Heat stroke in children can occur within minutes, even if a car window is opened slightly. The same is true for pets.

Heat illness prevention and treatment

Air conditioning is the No. 1 protective factor against heat illness. If you don't have air conditioning, spend time in public facilities, such as libraries and malls, that have air conditioning. Fans can help too although less than air conditioning.

Reduce strenuous activities or do them during early mornings and evenings when it's cooler. If you're outside for long stretches of time, carry a water bottle, drink fluids regularly, and don't push your limits. People who play sports should wear light, loose fitting clothes and drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after activity. For example, a 90 pound child needs to drink about 6 ounces every 15 minutes during warm weather exercise. Cold water and sports drinks are good for hydration, but avoid soda and juices. If you see someone showing signs of heat illness, have the person lie down in a cool place and elevate the legs. Use water, wet towels, and fanning to help cool the person down until emergency help comes.

A word about heat and cars 

Sadly, cases of children being accidentally left behind in cars by distracted caregivers are not rare. Since 1998, there have been about 623 such deaths, according to statistics compiled by Jan Null, a meteorologist at San Francisco State University. And he says the problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Over the past 16 years, the 5-year annual average has stayed flat at around 38 deaths each year.

About half the deaths happened as a result of a caregiver forgetting a child in the back seat, according to Null’s statistics. About 30% happened when kids were playing in an unattended car, and 18% were as a result of parents intentionally leaving a child unattended in a car. Here are tips for avoiding tragedy:

  • Leave a purse, briefcase, or cell phone in the back seat. That way, you get in the habit of checking in the back seat before leaving the vehicle.
  • Make an arrangement with your child’s daycare to have them call you if the child doesn’t show up as expected.
  • Always lock your car and car trunk, even if the car is parked in the driveway at home, and always keep keys and fobs out of the reach of little ones.
  • If you see a child unattended in a car, call 911.

 

 

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