With schools closed and children at home for the long summer break, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is reminding parents and caregivers to ensure that children are not exposed to excessive heat and humidity to protect them from heat-related illnesses which are more common during the summer months.

Experts at HMC warn parents to exercise caution and refrain from exposing children to high temperatures or humidity if they engage in any outdoor activities, especially with the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor and sporting activities in Qatar.

According to Dr Rafael Consunji, Director of Hamad Trauma Center’s Hamad Injury Protection Program (HIPP), children are at an increased risk of developing heat-related illness if exposed to high temperatures because they don’t adjust to changes in environmental conditions as quickly as most healthy adults do.

Therefore, it is very important for parents or caregivers to ensure children’s outdoor playtime is when temperature and humidity are low, or they can let children play in an airconditioned or shaded area.

He states further the need for parents to be vigilant and monitor their children while taking them outdoors, saying that hot weather can be a danger for everyone, but for children, the dangers are magnified. He said that a child’s temperature can rise five times faster than an adult’s temperature, especially on hot days.

Heat stress

Common signs and symptoms of heat stress and heat-related illnesses include an elevated body temperature, cool/clammy skin, irritability, increased thirst/sweating, headache, feeling faint, dizzy or weak. If unrecognised or neglected, these signs and symptoms can lead to more severe heat exhaustion and stroke.

Dr Consunji said that children should not be left unsupervised to play outdoors. With the increasing temperatures, he reminded the public of the increased health risks associated with children being left outside to play.

It is understandable that parents might like to take their children to the beach, the pool or parks to cool off or unwind.

However, he said that it is advisable to follow some heat prevention precautions such as ensuring the children wear lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing, using a timer to limit their time under the direct heat to 30 minutes or less and drink cold fluids every 15 minutes while outside.

Dr Consunji also recommends these proven ‘SMART’ techniques to reduce the risk of heat-related illness in children:

  • Supervise children as they play outdoors so that any signs of heat-related illnesses can be identified and addressed.
  • Monitor local heat and humidity forecasts, using any weather app, to know if there are heat warnings of extreme temperatures (> 32-330 C) and/or humidity (>50%).
  • Avoid unshaded play areas and play surfaces that absorb and reflect heat, like asphalt, concrete, dark coloured and reflective surfaces.
  • Regular breaks, every 30 minutes, to take children into air-conditioned indoors or shaded spaces and to drink cool liquids, every 15 minutes. Dry their sweat off, provide a cool towel wipe and change clothes, if necessary. Use a phone alarm with lively alarm sounds or songs and make it a game with the children, so they enjoy these breaks.
  • Time outdoor playtime before 10 am and after 4 pm to reduce dangerous heat exposure.

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