Impact of Heat Waves on the Health of Children

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A young boy walking over a dry lake bed - deep cracks result from evaporation.

According to the Natural Disaster Management Authority, GoI, a heat wave is a period of unusually high temperatures above the average maximum temperature in the North-Western regions of India during the summer. Heat waves typically occur between March and June, but they can occasionally last through July. People, especially children in these areas, are negatively impacted by the excessive temperatures and accompanying climatic conditions as the heatwave produces physiological stress, which can periodically result in death.Heat waves can be fatal so the patient needs immediate hospitalization.

With the temperature rise comes the issue of food and water scarcity. An excellent illustration of this is the early summer arrival and heat waves in 2022 in the Indian state of Punjab, which decreased the wheat output by 4-5 quintals per acre. The number of children who experience hunger and malnutrition rises due to the food grain shortage. 

Public health experts advise being cautious with children as they are more susceptible to heat waves than adults. As average air temperature rises, there are more cases of heat-related illness, and nearly half of those who get sick are children, according to experts. There could be two causes: children’s bodies are less capable of regulating their body temperatures than those of adults, and they depend on adults for precautions and treatments. 

In this blog, we will discuss how children are impacted by the heat wave in India and what steps should be taken to keep them safe during unusual heat. 

What Is the Impact of Heat on Children’s Health?

Heat-related disorders in children develop when the body is unable to cool itself due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures and humidity, which can be made worse by physical activity. When the body’s core temperature rises, cases can range from mild, like benign heat rashes in infants, to more dangerous. That can result in potentially fatal cases of heatstroke, recognized when the body temperature exceeds 104 degrees and may result in organ failure.

Children can get sick quickly from high temperatures and excessive heat in several ways. Health conditions like dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke can all result from it, each of which is a medical emergency. Increased mental health issues in kids and teens, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, have been associated with high temperatures.

The symptoms are as follows:

Heat Rash: Also referred to as a sunburn phenomenon, this pinkish skin condition causes skin burning and agony.

Heat Syncope: dizziness, headache with vertigo, and abrupt onset of sleepiness or unconsciousness.

Heat Cramps: Edema (swelling) and Syncope (fainting) usually occur together with a fever of less than 39°C (102°F).

Heat Exhaustion symptoms include weakness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and perspiration.

Heat Stroke: 104°F or more body temperature associated with delirium, seizures, or coma. This illness has the potential to be fatal.

In case you notice any of these symptoms, do visit your doctor. They may suggest some tests be done from an advanced diagnostic center and give treatment based on the results. 

Safety Tips to Beat the Heat

Here are a few safety tips approved by experts that you can adopt to keep your children safe from heat waves: 

Keep Your Child Hydrated: Water is one of the most crucial things to remember when combating heat. A sufficient water intake helps your child stay hydrated even in hot weather. Always give safe drinking water to your child, whether going to school or playing. Sports drinks and other sugary beverages should be avoided.

In addition to water, offering them healthy fruit juices is an excellent method to keep the children calm in India. Instead of bottled fruit juices, which can include preservatives, freshly squeezed fruit juices are a healthier option.

Offer nutritious foods: Kids should be given fresh produce, home-cooked meals, and fruits and vegetables. They should concentrate on foods high in water, such as cucumber, celery, bell peppers, and fruits like watermelon, melon, and berries. Avoid processed, greasy, and spicy foods.

Ventilate Your Home: Keep windows closed during the day and open them at night after it has gotten cooler outdoors. If it is below 35 degrees, electric fans may be helpful. A room’s temperature should be checked regularly, especially when you have a child. 

Keep a Check on Clothes and Other Accessories: Make your children wear loose-fitting, airy, light-colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Dark colors should be avoided since they absorb sunlight. Apply sunscreen and make them wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face and head.

Take Out Time For Rest: Due to the heat, youngsters (and their parents) may need more rest time. People who experience extreme heat may become irritable in addition to feeling exhausted. Refresh yourself, rest, and hydrate frequently inside.

Heatwave: Do’s & Don’ts

The physiological strain brought on by heat waves has the potential to be fatal. You can take the following actions to lessen the effects of the heat wave and avoid major illness or death from heat stroke:

The don’ts 

  • Avoid being outside in the sun, especially between noon in the afternoon.
  • Drink enough water as often as possible, even if you’re not thirsty.
  • Wear cotton clothing that is breathable, light in color, loose, and porous. Wear protective eyewear, an umbrella or hat, shoes, or chappals when walking outside in the sun.
  • When the temperature is high outside, stay away from physical activity. 
  • Bring water with you wherever you go.
  • A doctor should be seen right away if you feel sick or dizzy.
  • Use ORS and homemade hydration-boosting beverages like lassi, Torani (rice water), lemon water, buttermilk, etc.
  • Use sunshades, shutters, or drapes to keep your house cool. Open the windows at night.

Those relocated from a colder to a hotter region are at high risk. They should drink plenty of water and refrain from moving around in open spaces for a week until their bodies have adjusted to the heat. During a heat wave, acclimatization is accomplished by gradually exposing yourself to the hot environment

Conclusion 

The heat wave has had an adverse impact on children’s health worldwide. The governments of countries, including India, are continuously taking steps to decrease the number of deaths due to heat waves. People should follow all the safety tips and make their children aware of the symptoms and results of heat stroke. Visiting a reliable doctor is always advised and always remember to get the prescribed tests done from a certified pathology lab