Dehydration is common to all heat illnesses; hence, preventing it is a must. Thirst is not an adequate indicator of dehydration, as the human body responds with thirst when it is already two to three percent dehydrated. Before any outdoor activity, ensure that the child is well hydrated. Cecilia Alinea, M.D., a pediatrician at the Philippine General Hospital, advises that drinking as many as 12 glasses of water a day and taking “hydration breaks” in the middle of sports activities or outdoor games prevent dehydration and allow the body to perform more optimally. Wearing proper clothing can also aid heat dissipation.
Skin disorders are also common during the summer months. According to Dr. Alinea, this is due to the physiology of children’s skin: “Younger skin has a higher pH, less fatty acid content, increased [susceptibility to] water loss and … absorption, and thermal instability. These physiologic features, as well as the presence of smaller pores that prevent adequate evaporation of sweat, plus exposure to heat from the sun, easily cause skin dehydration—leading to dryness, irritation, development of breaks in the skin and eventually, … skin infection.” Kids tend to scratch more and moisturize less, making them prone to skin disorders.
The usual culprits include sunburn, miliaria, impetigo and intertrigo. Sunburns are first degree burns due to overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Miliaria or bungang araw occurs when sweat causes inflammation in the deeper layers of the skin. The sweat glands become blocked and do not deliver sweat to skin surface, causing the skin to be dry, irritated, itchy and sore. Impetigo develops when bacteria infiltrates the skin. Intertrigo, also known as superficial inflammatory dermatitis, is found in areas with creases and folds. The combination of sweat, friction and heat makes the skin more irritated and prone to secondary bacterial infection.
Dr. Alinea advises parents to moisturize their children’s skin with mild lotion containing anhydrous lanolin to prevent blockage of sweat ducts. Kids should also wear breathable clothing. Keeping children’s hands and nails clean, as well as using antibacterial soap, may help prevent bacterial infection. If the skin irritation is severe, doctors may prescribe a steroid cream to reduce the inflammation.
Sunburns may be prevented by applying sunblock 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. The World Health Organization advises to limit exposure to sunlight between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., when UV radiation is strongest.
The CDC states that in about 10 people who die every day from unintentional drowning, two are below 14 years old. Factors that affect drowning risk include lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, lack of close supervision while swimming, location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders.
The CDC’s tips for water safety include: