With schools closed for summer, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) urges parents and caregivers to protect children from excessive heat and humidity to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Experts at HMC warn parents to exercise caution and refrain from exposing children to high temperature or humidity if they choose to do any outdoor activities with them.

Dr Rafael Consunji, Director of the Hamad Trauma Center’s Hamad Injury Protection Program (HIPP), emphasised that children are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses when exposed to high temperatures.

‘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 play time is when temperature and humidity are low, or they can let children play in air-conditioned or shaded area,’ he said.

He further states the need for parents to be vigilant and monitor their children while taking them outdoors. He stressed that a child’s temperature can rise five times faster than an adult’s temperature, especially on hot days.

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 advises parents to be aware of the heightened health risks associated with children being left unattended outdoors. While it’s natural for parents to want their children to enjoy places like beaches, pools, or parks for relaxation, he recommends taking precautions.

‘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,’ he highlights.

He also recommends these proven ‘SMART’ techniques to reduce the child’s risk for heat-related illness:

  • Supervise children as they play outdoors so 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 or high humidity.
  • Avoid unshaded play areas and play surfaces that absorb and reflect heat, like asphalt, concrete, dark colored 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 play time before 10am and after 4pm to reduce dangerous heat exposure.

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