Watch Kids for Heat Illnesses

School is out in just a few days and parents will be scrambling for activities to keep the kids busy all summer. With childhood obesity on the rise, many pediatricians are recommending plenty of outdoor exercise. But there are some safety precautions to keep in mind. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day for people of all ages, even kids. During the summer, kids have a lot more physical energy and time to expend. It's not uncommon for the neighborhood lawns, sidewalks and pools to be swarming with activity all day every day. And in Houston's extreme summer heat and humidity, most parents know to watch out for heat-related illnesses. But Dr. Mary Rocha, a pediatrician at Ben Taub Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, says parents may not realize how quickly children are affected by heat.

"Basically, children are smaller but their body surface area compared to their weight is larger, so they can actually lose more of their reserves through sweating compared to a bigger person."

Heat can be a problem for anyone spending extended time outside, but Dr. Rocha says children don't recognize when their bodies are in trouble.

"Give lots of water. Make sure that your child has the need to urinate on a frequent, regular basis. Maintaining their urination is a really easy way for parents to tell children are maintaining their hydration. By the time they're complaining of thirst, they're already dehydrated."

Dehydration and sunburn are the two biggest risks for kids playing outside. More severe problems like heat stroke are much less common, but can still occur.

"If your child is acting in any way altered, in terms of the way they interact with others -- they're not acting like themselves -- they feel very hot, but you don't actually see any sweat on them, that would be very concerning that they're progressing toward serious heat-related illness."

Rocha says some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating, paleness, weakness, dizziness, headaches and nausea. Usually drinking fluids and moving into a shaded or air conditioned area will take care of the problem, but Rocha says if the symptoms persist longer than an hour, your child may need medical attention. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...