I read today about a single mother in Canada whose 3-year-old child suffered heat stroke whilst sleeping in her bedroom, and this set some alarm bells ringing with the summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere topping the 100°F (38°C) mark in many countries.
It is not just extreme temperatures that make this period critical but sustained high temperatures over a number of days. With little respite during the night, the body doesn’t get the chance to lower its temperature naturally, increasing the likelihood of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
What is heat stroke?
When the body temperature reaches 104°F (40°C) and is unable to cool down, you begin to suffer from heat exhaustion, feeling nauseous and tired. This is very dangerous as it could lead to a heat stroke. You may have muscle cramps and a headache.
But how do you see this in your child, who may be sleeping at the time? Children and babies are unable to regulate their temperature naturally, so they are most at risk during long periods of high temperature.
It is vitally important that you spot the symptoms and act quickly as heat stroke can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs and can even result in death if not treated immediately. Here are some things to look for:
- Redness in the skin
- Heavy sweating
- Irregular or heavy breathing
- Increased heart rate
If you suspect your baby is suffering from heat stroke, you should:
- If your baby is unresponsive, call an ambulance or get your baby to a hospital straight away
- Remove any outer clothing and bed linen
- Turn on a fan or air-con unit (should have been on in the first place if you have one!)
- Immerse your baby in a cold-water bath
- Use a wet towel to dampen the skin – pat, don’t rub
- Concentrate on the back, neck, armpits and groin areas – use ice packs if available
- Check the body temperature to see if it is reducing
How to prevent heat stroke
Knowing how dangerous heat stroke is in babies and toddlers, prevention is better than any cure. Here are some tips in keeping your baby cool this summer:
- Your baby needs plenty of fluids – water flavoured with lemon and other citrus fruits is good but you can also give your baby watermelon, which has excellent nutritional value. Avoid very cold drinks as these may cause stomach cramps.
- Loose, lightweight clothing allows the skin to breathe, preventing overheating.
- Playing in water is a fun way to cool down but be sure to protect the skin from the powerful UV rays of the sun.
- Stay in the shade as much as possible
As an adult and a parent, you also need to be aware of the potential dangers of sitting out in the sun all day during long periods of sustained high temperatures. Take these extra precautions to avoid heat exhaustion:
- Avoid alcohol during the day. This affects the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
- Caffeine makes you lose more fluids than you intake, so don’t overdo the coffee. Surprisingly, a single espresso has on average half the caffeine of a cup of Nescafe (other instant coffees are available).
- Take extra precautions if you are on medication such as diuretics, sedatives, heart and blood pressure tablets. Ask your doctor if your meds increase the risk of heat exhaustion.
- Avoid strenuous exercise in the afternoon when the temperature is at its highest
- Keep an eye on the Relative Humidity (RH) as well as temperature. Your body sweats to cool down but when RH reaches 60% or more you sweat less, which causes your body to overheat.
- Remember when you sweat, you lose salt, so you will need to replenish your salt levels as well. Sports drinks containing electrolytes are good for this.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen! Use an SPF of 30 or more and apply regularly. If your skin burns, your body cannot cool down as fast.
I hope you found this useful and we at Baby Knows Best would like to wish you all a happy and safe summer. Don’t forget to visit our shop for some great summer offers, like our Baby Monitor, summer clothes and swimwear.