Extreme heat puts children, elderly at risk for heat exhaustion

With feels-like temperatures over 100 this week, the Wilmington Fire Department and other...
With feels-like temperatures over 100 this week, the Wilmington Fire Department and other safety leaders want to make sure your child isn't left inside a hot car. (Source: WECT)
Updated: Jun. 18, 2018 at 10:56 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - With temperatures in southeastern North Carolina reaching dangerously high numbers, medical professionals shared tips to keep in mind for staying safe in the heat.

Precautions to take with children

Dr. David Hill with Kidzcare Pediatrics said it's imperative that children are adequately hydrated.

"I think the most important thing is that kids who are playing outside and at risk of getting hot have access to all the water that they need," said Hill.

Kids playing or training for sports are at an especially high risk for heat exhaustion. Hill says every year a few young athletes die because of it.

"I get especially worried when kids are training for sports, if they're being asked to run tough drills and not being given enough water breaks," he said. "Make sure your child, if they're going into training, doesn't feel like it's weak to ask for water. It's not weak. It may keep them alive."

Hill says water is best for keeping kids hydrated, not juice or sports drinks.

He also said children's natural thirst levels should ensure they are getting enough fluids.

"Make the water available. You don't really have to force them to drink but definitely get them to take a break if they've been playing a while," he said.

Signs of heat-related trouble in children

  • exhaustion
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • nausea

"Heat exhaustion actually does kind of start with exhaustion," Hill said. "Kids will seem fatigued. They'll all of a sudden not want to play and that's a time that you should really move to a cool place indoors or if you're out at a park, maybe you can turn the air conditioning on in the car. Make sure they're getting all the water they need."

Seek medical help if kids show signs of

  • confusion
  • difficulty walking
  • agitation

Precautions for adults, especially elderly and those with medical conditions

Benjamin Pellegrin, a nurse practitioner at New Hanover Regional Medical Center's Urgent Care Center, says symptoms of heat exhaustion — including exhaustion, headaches, and irritability — often bring in more patients this time of year.

He said infants, children, elderly, and people with medical conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease are at a higher risk.

"Avoid physical activity during the hottest parts of the day," Pellegrin said. "Save it for early morning or late afternoon. Drink plenty of fluids on a scheduled basis. Wear light fitting clothing, preferably light colors, single layers and a hat."

He also said running fans, sponging down with cool water, and keeping windows open will help those without air conditioning keep cool.

Signs of heat exhaustion in adults 

  • exhaustion
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • headaches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • muscle cramps

Heat stroke 

"Heat stroke is more serious," Pellegrin said. "(it is) defined as having a body temperature of 106 degrees or higher and neurotic dysfunction."

Heat stroke can develop in a matter of minutes and can lead to kidney failure or death if not treated immediately.

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