Tips to Help Children and the Elderly Beat the Heat

With our recent record-high temperatures, many people are treated daily for extreme dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat-related illnesses. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to extreme heat. OSU Medical Center offers a few tips to help you keep your cool during the extreme heat.

Never leave a child in the car. “Babies aren’t completely able to regulate their body heat yet,” said Dr. Michael Schiesel, ER physician. The number one tip for those working outside during the summer is to drink plenty of water. Dr. Schiesel recommends drinking 8 ounces of fluid for every 30 minutes of activity.

There are several factors that make children more vulnerable to heat-related illness than adults.

  • Children absorb more heat from their environment because they have a greater skin surface-area to body-mass (weight) ratio than adults – the smaller the child, the faster the heat is absorbed.
  • Children are not able to dissipate as much heat through sweating as adults.
  • Children produce more metabolic heat during physical activity.
  • Children, like adults, do not have the physiological drive to drink enough fluids to replenish sweat losses during prolonged exercise.

Teach your children to drink on a schedule: before, during and after activity in order to replace what they’ve lost through sweat. Easy tip: Learn to drink for individual needs. Two kid’s gulps typically equal an ounce of fluid. Drinking enough of the right fluids is the best defense against heat illness because dehydration is the first warning sign of more serious heat-related conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What’s the best fluid for children to drink during an activity?

Studies show that when drinking water, kids will drink only about 50 percent of what they need. To help children drink enough fluid to fully replace what they have lost through sweat, research suggests that a lightly flavored sports drink with a small amount of sodium, like Gatorade or G2, encourages them to drink significantly more than water to stay better hydrated.

The “ABCs” are an easy way for kids and parents to remember how to beat the heat:

Always drink before, during and after activity to replace what you’ve lost in sweat.

Bring the right fluids. Research shows sports drinks like Gatorade hydrate best.

Consider fluids as part of essential safety equipment for sports.

What about the Elderly and fluid intake in the heat?

“The elderly have more chronic conditions that may interfere with their temperature-control mechanisms,” explains Dr. Schiesel. “People with chronic health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, are particularly susceptible to dehydration.”

He suggests everyone stay away from alcohol and caffeinated drinks like sodas or coffee in extreme heat. Both will dehydrate you. Signs that you could be suffering heat exhaustion or heat stroke include headaches, blurry vision, fatigue and muscle cramps.

Common warning signs of dehydration and heat illness include:

• Thirst • Fatigue • Irritability

• Headache • Dizziness • Weackness

Treatment of dehydration and heat illness should take place immediately. Depending on the severity of the situation, seek medical attention immediately or dial 911 for emergency medical services.