KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — With temperatures fluctuating above 90 degrees, the risk of heat-related illness increases, especially when children are home from school during summer break and want to play outside.
Experts told News Channel 11 that more vulnerable populations such as kids or the elderly are more likely to experience heat-induced issues as the heatwave persists.
“Children are more prone to any sort of temperature-related injury, just because they’re smaller and the amount of volume their body has compared to their surface area,” said Dr. Sam Delaune, medical director at Niswonger Children’s Hospital’s emergency department. “It just changes the way that the heat exchanges so they’re going to be less tolerant of heat just like they would be less tolerant to cold.”
Certain signs and symptoms may present themselves as a hint of excessive sun exposure in children. Parents are advised to look out for symptoms of sweating profusely, red in the face, elevated heart rate, and panting – almost like a dog – in younger kids who may not be able to express how they feel.
“Sweating profusely, if they’re starting to get a lot of redness, if they’re starting to feel maybe even a little nausea, that means their body is getting too hot,” said Barry Brickey, Kingsport Fire Department’s public information officer. “Now if they quit sweating, that’s not a good sign. That means they could be having a heat stroke. If they start vomiting a lot, if they lose consciousness, you need to get them cooled off, you need to call 911 immediately because we need to get them some really special care.”
Leaving anyone, let alone a child or pet, alone in a vehicle with the windows rolled up and the engine off could prove deadly, but in a heatwave, like the Tri-Cities is experiencing, it could be deadly within minutes.
“In just 10 minutes on a day like today it can go from 95 to almost 120 or so in 10 to 15 minutes, and you can cause some major medical problems for anybody who may be inside that car,” Brickey advised.
The Niswonger Children’s Hospital pediatric emergency room reported an elevation in heat-related illness, which is normal during heatwaves.
“They’ll go from running and playing and all of a sudden to seeming very tired, wanting to stop wanting to lie down or even lethargic,” Delaune said. “Those are going to be the big signs that you’re going to see immediately.”
He said summer sports and even band could also lead to illness. He advised maximum hydration and if signs of excessive heat exposure begin to show, he advised drinking cool water or drinks with salt in them.
“We definitely see it a lot in kids as they become more active when it is hot outside. So this is kind of the perfect storm this time of year with everyone being fresh out of school everyone wanting to get out and do things with COVID restrictions being lower everyone being outside trying to do more things combined with this heat wave and not just the heat but the humidity as well,” Delaune said.
Splashing around in the water or even playing in the shade may save a life, Brickey said.
“If the children are outside today playing, we’ve got a couple of places where they can go to, the splash pad, where there’s water or at a swimming pool, maybe a little sprinkler set up in the yard at the house or a little kiddie pool, something like that where they’re getting cooled off,” Brickey said.
“As they’re out in the heat make sure they do drink a lot. And if it’s something where they’re not, you know getting water sprayed on them or something, get them in the shade or bring them in the house frequently. That way they don’t get too overheated.”
Delaune advised keeping an eye out for sun exposure to the skin as well.
“Especially anything more than a minor sunburn, it essentially is still a burn. So you’re going to lose more fluid and be more prone to dehydration,” he said.
Brickey advised that people check on their neighbors who do not have air conditioning, as the weather could be stifling indoors as well.