Baby, It’s Hot Outside!June 18, 2012
| While summer days may seem like the perfect setting for some outdoor physical activity with young kids, the reality is that hot and even warm days can be dangerous. When factors like excessive heat, over exertion, illness and not enough water come together - kids can get sick or, worse, die.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service reports that heat is the number-one weather-related killer in the United States, with hundreds of fatalities every year (more than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined). Local NWS forecast offices will issue watches, warnings and advisories for extreme heat based on a heat index chart, which measures how hot it really feels when humidity is factored into air temperature. For example, if the temperature outside is 96 degrees Fahrenheit and the relative humidity is 65 percent, the heat index would be 121 degrees Fahrenheit. The NWS will post alerts when the heat index is expected to exceed 105 to 110 degrees for at least two consecutive days.
The California Department of Public Heath said there is a broad spectrum of disease related to heat, from mild heat cramps (usually in the muscles in the legs or abdomen) to life-threatening heat stroke. Children less than 5 years old are among the most vulnerable, according to the CDPH. On its website, the CDPH describes symptoms, treatments and prevention methods for heat-related illness, including drinking plenty of water, scheduling outdoor activities earlier or later in the day, pacing activity with frequent breaks and wearing light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
The American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement on Climatic Heat Stress and Exercising Children and Adolescents, published in August, said heat illness is usually preventable. "With appropriate preparation, modifications and monitoring, most healthy children and adolescents can safely participate in outdoor sports and other physical activities through a wide range of challenging warm to hot climatic conditions," according to the statement.
The AAP recommends that teachers, coaches and anyone leading youth sports or exercise programs be trained and aware about heat illnesses and how to prevent, identify and treat them. The AAP reiterates the CDPH's recommendations for hydration and breaks, and adds that exercise in the heat be avoided by children who were recently ill or recovering from an illness, especially those involving gastrointestinal distress and/or fever.
Besides heat, children in Southern California can also become sick from exercising in bad air. While greener living and awareness has improved the air quality in Los Angeles over the last few decades, there is still unhealthful smog - way worse on some hot summer days. Smog irritates the eyes, nose, sinuses, throats and bronchial tubes, and can cause serious, long-term damage, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Children raised in smoggy cities have 10 to 15 percent less lung capacity than those who weren't, according to studies cited by the AQMD. Children are most susceptible because, compared to adults, they breathe faster and take in more air. When playing hard, kids breathe through their mouths - meaning the air they take in doesn't go through the nose's natural filters, the AQMD said.
The daily air quality forecast is available from the AQMD by email, Twitter and on its website by zip code. On days with less healthful air quality, the AQMD recommends cutting back on outdoor activities, exercising outside in the morning and staying inside if suffering from bronchitis, asthma or heart disease.
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