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PH heat index at "dangerous level": protect your child from heatstroke

Summer is always a fun time--filled with family outings, summer camp, a trip to the beach, or a friendly game of volleyball. But be weary of heatstroke heat-related illnesses. Know the danger signs and first-aid treatment of heat-related illnesses here.

From outdoor sports to family beach outings, summer is definitely jam-packed with exciting activities.

But the summer heat can also be a serious threat to one’s health if necessary precautions are not taken, especially in the Philippines, where the effects of El Niño continue to be felt.

In Nueva Ecija, for instance, a heat index of of 51 degrees was recently recorded.

Heat index pertains to how hot one’s body actually feels as air temperature interplays with humidity.

The heat index of 51 degrees, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), is just 3 degrees shy of the “danger level” when a heatstroke can occur.

Fifty-four degrees Celsius is considered the “extreme danger” level.

In the meantime, “extreme caution” must be exercised in Metro Manila, where a heat index of 32 to 41 degrees has been recorded. At 41 degrees, PAG-ASA said, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are possible.

According to the weather bureau, these warmer temperatures are to be expected throughout April.

Children, in particular, are at a greater risk of dehydration and heat-related illnesses.

Next: Waring signs of dehydration

According to WebMD, the warning signs of dehydration are fatigue, thirst, dry lips, lack of energy, and the feeling of being overheated. If kids wait until they feel thirsty before they actually drink, that means that they are already dehydrated. “Thirst doesn’t really kick in until a child has lost 2% of his or her body weight as sweat.”

“A simple rule of thumb: if your child's urine is dark in color, rather than clear or light yellow, he or she may be becoming dehydrated,” the website advised.

Dehydration can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.

So before you let your child engage in some outdoor fun, Kids Health lists a few important things to remember to avoid heat-related illnesses:

Heat cramps

These are painful, short-lived muscle cramps that may occur in the arms, legs, and abdomen resulting from the loss of salts and fluids during an intense workout or physical activity.

Heat cramps are not life-threatening, but are warning signals prior to the onset of more serious heat-related illnesses.

Kids are more prone to suffer from heat cramps. You can ease their discomfort by letting them rest in a cool place, letting them drink sports drinks or fluids containing salt and sugar, and massaging cramped muscles.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion, a more serious condition caused by dehydration, may be signalled by increased thirst, weakness, fainting, muscle cramps, nausea and/vomiting, irritability, headache, more profuse sweating, clammy skin, and rise in body temperature.

The first thing you should do if you suspect your child is suffering from heat exhaustion is to take your child indoors to an air-conditioned room, air-conditioned car, or a shaded area. You should then remove any excess clothing; let him/her drink sports drinks or fluids with salt and water; place a cool, damp cloth on your child’s skin; and call a doctor.

Heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke so be vigilant.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is a potentially fatal condition where body temperature can rise to 41.1 degrees C. This can lead to brain damage and death if the body temperature is not promptly controlled.

Heatstroke should be suspected if your child exhibits these symptoms after physical activity in a hot environment: severe headache; weakness and dizziness; confusion; nausea; rapid breathing and heartbeat; loss of consciousness; seizure; absence of sweat; flushed, hot, and dry skin; temperature of 40 degrees C.

Get your child to a doctor right away if he/she suffers from any of the above-mentioned symptoms. While waiting to get to a hospital nearest you or for a doctor to arrive at the scene, you should get your child indoors or to a cool and shaded area; undress your child; drench him/her with cool water. Do not give fluids unless your child is alert and awake.

To avoid heat-related illnesses, dress your child in cool, light-colored clothes, and avoid prolonged activity under the sun or in other hot environments. You should also encourage your child to drink lots of fluids even when they are not feeling thirsty.  Allow your children to play outdoors only before noon and after 6 p.m. In addition, NEVER EVER leave your child alone in a car with the air-conditioning turned off and the windows closed.

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