My 13-year-old, Jordan, had been looking forward to his first backpacking trip, the start of training for an outing in the Rockies. He was ready to hike 13 miles in a day, but he hadn't counted on the effect of the hot sun combined with dehydration from sweating. Instead of enjoying a pack-stove dinner with his pals, Jordan ended his hike overheated and too dizzy and nauseated to leave his tent. (Medical professionals want you to know these 6 things before working out in the heat.)
Though disappointed, Jordan was lucky. Resting out of the sun, drinking water and juice, and getting a rubdown with cold towels brought his body temperature under control. The consequences could have been more serious: Hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature, can cause painful muscle cramps and may quickly progress from the nausea, fatigue, and headache of heat exhaustion to the disorientation and loss of consciousness that marks heatstroke (although you should always be on the lookout for these warning signs that you need medical help).
Kids, especially those under 4, are susceptible to high temps for two reasons: They don't dissipate heat through sweating as efficiently as adults do, and they don't always drink enough to replace the fluid they lose in sweat. Children caught up in a game are likely to ignore their thirst—and, unfortunately, supervising adults may fail to remind them: One survey showed that 3 out of 4 parents don't know the steps they should take to keep their kids adequately hydrated.
Like sunburn and bug bites, hyperthermia is a bane of summer that can be prevented, says Jordan Metzl, MD, medical director of the Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Use these tips to keep your kid healthy and in play.
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