Heat Illness and the Heat Index

Top athleteKids don’t adapt to extreme temperatures as well as adults. They generate more metabolic heat per mass when active, have a reduced capacity to sweat, and their high surface area to body mass ratio means they absorb more heat from the environment.

When it’s over 95 degrees F, kids’ exercise tolerance is lower than adults. Humidity only adds to heat stress. Getting used to exercising in the heat takes 8 to 10 exposures of 30-45 minutes each. These can be done one per day or one every other day.

Kids must drink to replace fluids lost during exercise, but they don’t always feel the need to drink enough. Dehydration increases the risk of heat stress and illness.

Children learn what the live, and adults should teach proper health habits in hot and humid weather: stress acclimatization, appropriate clothing, fluids and adjusting activities based on heat and humidity.

A chart that plots the Heat Index from temperature and humidity into relative risk zones is here. The colored zones indicate when parents, kids, coaches and players should exercise caution.

About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at WebMD.com, Rx.com, and MyLifePath.com. She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. BabyCenter.com currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit www.LMAsta.com
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