Parents advised to be 'SMART' to protect children from summer heat and related illnesses
July 14 2021 11:16 PM
Dr Rafael Consunji

'A child’s temperature can rise five times faster than an adult’s temperature, especially on hot days'
With schools closed and children at home for the long summer break, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has reminded parents and caregivers to ensure that children are not exposed to excessive heat and humidity in order to protect them from heat-related illnesses, which are more common during the summer months.
Experts at HMC have warned parents to exercise caution and refrain from exposing children to high temperature or humidity if they choose to do any outdoor activities with them, especially with the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on outdoors and sporting activities in Qatar.
“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 airconditioned or shaded area,” notes Dr Rafael Consunji, director of Hamad Trauma Centre’s Hamad Injury Protection Programme (HIPP), who has recommended the proven ‘SMART’ techniques to reduce children’s risk for heat-related illness.
He states further the need for parents to be vigilant and monitor their children while taking them outdoors, saying: "Hot weather can be a danger for everyone, but for children, the dangers are magnified. He states 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.
“Children should not be left unsupervised to play outdoors. With the increasing temperatures, we want to remind 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, 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.

BOX: 'SMART' techniques
1. Supervise children as they play outdoors so any signs of heat-related illnesses can be identified and addressed.
2. Monitor local heat and humidity forecasts, using any weather app, to know if there are heat warnings of extreme temperatures, >32-33C and/or humidity >50%.
3. Avoid unshaded play areas and play surfaces that absorb and reflect heat, like asphalt, concrete, dark coloured and reflective surfaces.
4. Regular breaks, every 30 minutes, to take children into air-conditioned indoors or shaded spaces and to drink cold 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 that they enjoy these breaks.
5. Time outdoor play time before 10am and after 4pm to reduce dangerous heat exposure.

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