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Children more susceptible to heat-related illnesses


On average, one child dies from heatstroke every 10 days. According to the National Weather Service, 38 children have died each year from heatstroke from 2019 to 2022.

Heat illness can affect a child more seriously than an adult. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) says this is because children have a smaller body mass to surface area ratio, meaning that they are more vulnerable to heat mortality and morbidity. They are also more likely to become dehydrated because they lose more fluid quicker than adults do, so it is important to frequently give your child fluids.

"The dangers of the playground equipment is just that when it's been exposed out in the sun for long periods of time, it can be a very, very hot surface and what can happen is that when they're on the slide or sitting on the substance or structure, they may become burned," MU Health Care Emergency Department Physician, Dr. Christopher Sampson, said. "And then what also can happen with children sometimes is just that if they are injured or suffering in pain, they might freeze up and to immediately get off that surface that's hot."

Children are more susceptible to heat illness because they rely on others to keep them cool and hydrated. The CDC recommends that children dress in loose, light-weight and light-colored clothing.

"Children can be more susceptible for a few reasons. One is that sometimes in the very, very young, they're not really able to express or voice that they're suffering heat illness," Dr. Sampson said. "Also, children can become more or suffer more from the heat-related illnesses because they are not taking as much fluid."

Dr. Sampson also mentions that because children have such thin skin, they are more prone to sunburns and burns in general.

Symptoms to watch out for in children include excessive sweating, acting irritated or angry and a rise in body temperature. If a child is experiencing these symptoms they will need to get out of the heat and get cooled down right away.

"We know that with a heat emergency that if someone suffers a heat stroke, which is the most severe, the one most important thing is to get them rapidly cooled down," Dr. Sampson said.

When testing playground equipment at Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area (Cosmo Park), the metal slide was the hottest at 204 degrees. The tires were as high as 164 degrees and the green plastic slides were 154 degrees.

Dr. Sampson says that people die more often from heat emergencies than any other weather-related illness.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia
heat safety
playground safety

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Grace Pankey


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