Heat Stroke And Our Children

BY ON July 17, 2012

Two children drinking water from a drinking fountain on a Drink Some Water! poster

At my house, “Drink Some Water!” has become a family joke. I think a glass of water is the cure to everything: altitude, attitude, tummy ache, heartache, jet lag and nightmares. My sons roll their eyes: “Drink Some Water!”

But this summer, the perils of dehydration are no joke.

Around the country, summer camps are cancelling children’s outdoor activities. It is exhausting—and it can be dangerous—to play outside when temperatures climb into the 100’s. After a Florida camp sent six campers to the emergency room, medical teams began cruising the grounds in golf carts, watching for trouble. YMCA campers in Wisconsin are staying indoors, watching movies and doing puzzles.

Our bodies require lots of fluids to keep sweating—we cool down as that sweat evaporates, which is why high humidity makes heat waves even more punishing; our bodies retain more heat. The Red Cross is training counselors at a Tennessee camp to recognize the signs of an overheated child—“heat exhaustion”–which include dizziness, muscle weakness, nausea and vomiting.

If heat exhaustion is not treated quickly, it can progress to heat stroke. That’s when the body’s temperature regulation fails. A person suffering from heat stroke can become confused, lethargic—and may have a seizure. The skin stops sweating, and body temperature can exceed 106 F. Heat stroke can damage the brain and lead to the failure of other organs.

Heat stroke can be fatal—and it is the young and the elderly who are the most vulnerable to extreme heat.

Sure, it’s summer, and summer is hot. But it isn’t usually this hot, for such long spells. This is what climate change feels like. We’ve seen over 40,000 U.S. heat records broken this year. Speaking of water, we’re also suffering from unprecedented levels of drought, which is affecting people, animals and crops. This isn’t due to random chance. And climate scientists tell us we are on track for worse.

We don’t have to choose between playgrounds and pollution. We cannot be lethargic about global warming. We must demand action from our leaders: Give us a plan to stop greenhouse gas pollution. Give us a plan for global leadership in the energy technologies of the future—energy we don’t pay for with heat strokes.

This is urgent: If you haven’t already done so, please sign our petition to ask Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to announce their plans to slow global warming.

And this, too, is urgent–after all, once a mom, always a mom: Please get into the habit of drinking plenty of water, especially if you’re playing—or working—outdoors.


TOPICS: Pollution