House Calls: Limit the time in sunshine

Written by Barbara Woodcock August 26, 2013 04:37 pm

Barbara Woodcock
Barbara Woodcock
House Calls runs monthly. Today’s column is written by Barbara Woodcock, a physical therapy assistant in the Rehabilitation Department at Sutter Coast Hospital.

Living on the coast there aren’t many days that the temperature gets too hot.  However, it is common for people on the coast to go “up river” to enjoy some fun in the sun.

While exercise and sun exposure can be good things, too much time in the sun can actually lead to quite a bit of trouble for youngsters. Some things you need to remember is to apply sunscreen to children prior to exposure to the sun. Even this may not be enough protection at times.

Babies and toddlers often get “heat rash” or “prickly heat.” It is advised to dress your child comfortably for the temperatures of the day.  Heat rash can occur whether the child is over-dressed or under-dressed. If heat rash appears in spite of your efforts, treat the rash with calamine lotion to keep the child from scratching the affected area.

Sun poisoning is a sign of too much sun. This can be an allergic reaction or the first signs of a severe sunburn. If this occurs, remove the child from sun exposure. Make sure the child is getting plenty of water or sports drinks. A cool bath followed by an application of aloe cream to affected areas can be helpful as well.

Often children and teens are busy and may not recognize the signs of a heat-related illness. Some that can occur are heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps.

Heat stroke can occur quickly. The most common sign of a child suffering heat stroke is red-flushed skin without the presence of sweating, along with a rapid rise in body temperature and nausea. Children progress to being aggravated and/or disoriented with signs of difficulty breathing and a rapid pulse. With further progression a child may get a severe headache, then lose consciousness.  Then it has become a  life-threatening situation that will require  medical care.

Heat exhaustion is also common in children and often occurs when a child is profusely sweating and is not sufficiently replacing fluids. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion in children include muscle cramps, pale skin, fever over 102 degrees, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, weakness, and anxiety. If these symptoms go unnoticed and untreated, then they can progress to heat stroke.

It is important when a child is showing signs of heat exhaustion that you move the child to a cooler area, remove excess clothing, fan skin, give fluids such as Gatorade to replace what was lost. If the child continues to show signs of heat exhaustion, rush to the nearest ER before it progresses to heat stroke.

Adults may need to oversee children and teens and encourage them to take frequent rest breaks and drink plenty of fluids. Here is a list of tips to prevent heat-related illnesses:

• Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose fitting clothes.

• Wear a hat.

• Wear sunscreen with SPF of 30 or more and apply every hour.

• Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, like water or Gatorade.

• Your child should drink every 15-20 minutes.

• Avoid  drinks with caffeine and alcohol due to them increasing dehydration.

-Plan activities during the cooler times of the day.

• Take frequent rest breaks in a cool shady area.

Watch children for signs of overexposure and overheating, and enjoy the rest of the summer!