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Bright Babyhood’s Heat Safety Campaign – Safety Tips

It is an understatement to say that the UAE, and the Middle East in general, have brutal summers. Average temperatures in July and August, in the UAE, are typically around 40°Celsius (104°Fahrenheit), and in fact some summers have seen temperatures to soar up to 49° Celsius (120°Fahrenheit).

These high temperatures combined with the high humidity in the UAE, result in very high ‘feels like’ temperatures. For example with around 80% humidity, which is common in the summer months in the UAE, a temperature of 40°Celsius (104° Fahrenheit) can actually result in a ‘feels like’ temperature of 53°Celsius (130° Fahrenheit)

If these numbers don’t really hit home, think of it this way, any food heated over 40°Celsius (104° Fahrenheit), destroys the enzymes and proteins in those foods. And  53° Celsius (130°Fahrenheit) is the temperature at which a medium-rare steak is prepared.

Heat related injuries are very common with these high temperatures. This is because our bodies dissipate heat by evaporation of sweat which is a self-mechanism to cool down.  Heat and high humidity causes evaporation to slow down, therefore pushing our bodies to work harder than usual to maintain normal temperature. In closed spaces, like cars, even seemingly  mind temperatures like 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit) can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly.

Some of the most vulnerable in these extreme temperatures are young children. This article has been written, as part of Bright Babyhood's Heat Safety Campaign, to provide parents and caregivers with some facts about the dangers of high temperatures for children, and some of the risks, symptoms and treatments of heat -related traumas. 

Additionally we have also compiled a useful tip sheet Heat Safety Campaign – Tip Sheet that you can download for your own reference and also circulate to spread awareness about heat safety amongst your neighborhoods, peer groups and communities.


 

Why Are Children More Vulnerable To Heat Traumas

 

Exposure to abnormal or prolonged amounts of heat and humidity without relief or adequate  fluids can cause various types of heat-related illness. Children adjust more slowly, than adults, to heat and are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. This is because:

  • Underdeveloped Sweat Glands: Children do not have fully developed sweat glands, till they hit puberty. This means that the self-cooling mechanism, that adults have to regulate internal body temperature, is not fully functional in a young child leaving them much more vulnerable to high temperatures.
  • Small Body Mass To Surface Area Ratio: Due to low body mass to surface area ratio a child's capacity to sweat is lower than an adult, making them more vulnerable to heat stress.
  • Generate More Metabolic Heat: During physical activities, children generate more heat as they have a higher metabolic rate than adults.
  • Dehydrate Easily: Children are more likely to become dehydrated because they weigh less and their bodies turn over water and electrolytes more rapidly.
  • Outdoor Activities And Limited Judgement: Children play outdoors, more often than adults, and usually do not think to rest when having fun. They also may not think about re-hydrating when playing, exercising, or participating in sports, making them vulnerable to heat-related traumas.
  • Excessive Skin: Babies are born with the skin they will eventually grow into as adults. Therefore the volume of skin that covers a child is greater, making it more difficult for a child’s body to retain fluids.

 


Risks Of High Temperatures, Symptoms And Treatment

 

 

Extreme heat and humidity can cause our bodies to go into over drive. In young children, heat related stress can lead to:

DEHYDRATION

 

Dehydration is usually the first sign that a child is suffering from heat related trauma.

Symptoms 

  • Dark colored urine
  • Fewer wet nappies than usual, or no urination in 6-8 hours
  • Sunken soft spot in the skull
  • Sunken eyes
  • Heat rash
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability, inconsolable crying, and fussiness
  • Inadequate tear production
  • Dry or sticky mucous membranes (the lining of the mouth or tongue) 

Treatment

Fluid replacement is very important if you think your child is suffering from dehydration.

Infants (up to 1 year old):     

  • If the child is breastfed, nurse more often when you think dehydration is occuring.     
  • If your child is bottle fed, give them the usual amount.            
  • Give an Oral Rehydration Solution, appropriate for an infant, such as Pedialyte or Pedriatric Electrolyte or other brands available in your local pharmacy. It replaces fluids, sugars and electrolytes, and other nutrients. Ask your pediatrician what type and quantity to use.
  • Monitor the baby's temperature.
  • Give them a sponge bath till the temperature subsides. 
  • If they have developed a heat rash, keep the affected area dry and dust it often with powder
  • If your baby is vomiting, call your doctor.

Children (age 1 and above):

  • Give fluids in frequent, small sips, especially if the child is vomiting.
  • Give clear soup, clear soda, or some Oral Rehydration Solution.   
  • Give ice chips, popsicles and/or cereal mixed with milk.   
  • Monitor the child's temperature.

 

HEAT EXHAUSTION

 

Heat exhaustion occurs if the dehydration continues. As fluids are lost from the body, the blood flow to the skin increases, causing a decreased blood flow to vital organs. This results in a mild form of shock. If heat exhaustion goes untreated, the victim's condition will worsen, the body temperature will continue to rise, and hyperthermia (heat stroke/sun stroke) might occur.

Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Hot and dry skin
  • Increased breathing and pulse rates
  • Stomach and/or leg cramps

Treatment

Infants (up to 1 year old):   

  • Move the child to a cool place and immediately call an ambulance, or rush them to the nearest emergency room.

Children (age 1 and above):

  • Move the child to a cool place immediately and make him or her lie down
  • Remove their clothing and place moist, cool cloths on the forehead and wrists
  • Fan the child
  • If the child has cramps, apply ice packs and gently stretch the muscles. Do not massage the muscles.
  • Replace lost fluids, ideally with some Oral Rehydration Solution. 

Seek urgent medical help if recovery is not prompt

HEAT STROKE (SUN-STROKE/HYPERTHERMIA)

 

This occurs when dehydration and heat exhaustion is so extreme that the temperature control system in the body, stops working and the body temperature can rise high enough to cause brain damage and death.

Symptoms

  • High body temperature
  • Red-hot dry skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Racing pulse
  • Rapid shallow noisy breathing

Treatment

Move the child to a cooler place and seek urgent medical assistance. Without prompt care a heat stroke proves to be fatal in children as it puts an immense strain on the body’s circulation system, kidneys, brain and lungs. 

Additionally, use the same treatment as described above for Heat Exhaustion while you wait for medical assistance to arrive.

Note: Any child that you suspect is suffering from heat stress and has a temperature of more than 39°Celsius (103°Fahrenheit) should receive immediate medical attention

 


Hopefully, the information provided in this article will arm you with the right resources to treat your child in case any symptoms of heat-related trauma occur. 

Print out Bright Babyhood's Heat Safety Campaign Tip Sheet and circulate it in your community and share it with other parents to help avoid any heat related accidents.

Heat Safety Campaign – Tip Sheet

Also, read our upcoming article Tips to Beat the Heat to get information on how you can keep your child safe in these hot summer months.


 

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