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Keeping it Cool: Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses in Kids

With summertime right on the doorstep, most kids are looking forward to sunshine and outdoor activities. And while many parents are well-versed on the importance of sunscreen and skin protection, another warm weather danger is often overlooked -- heat-related illnesses. Children and the elderly are most susceptible to these illnesses, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 300 people die annually from excessive heat exposure in the United States. Every year, between 30 and 50 children in the U.S. die from overheating in a vehicle, so hot car deaths are a major concern.

The three types of heat-related illnesses are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Heat cramps are the least serious of the three, and consist of muscle pains or spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen that usually occur during strenuous activity. The CDC believes they are most likely caused by low salt levels in the muscles due to excessive sweating, but can also be a sign of heat exhaustion.

Heat cramps do not always require medical attention. The CDC offers the following tips to treat your child if he is suffering from heat cramps:

  • Stop all activity and sit in a cool place.
  • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
  • Gently stretch or massage the affected area.
  • Do not return to any strenuous activity for a few hours, even after the cramps subside. Doing this can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Seek medical attention if the cramps do not subside in one hour or if the victim has heart problems or is on a low-sodium diet.


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