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Little kids, especially babies and toddlers are in their most delicate yet important phase of life - a time when their biological systems are still developing, which makes their body sensitive and vulnerable to internal and external agents. One such agent is high temperature - internal as well as external - which can cause your child to suffer a heat stroke and could possibly turn fatal if not tended-to on time.
But, don't worry. Understanding a heat stroke will significantly reduce the risk of it and also help prevent it. In this article, you can read more about the symptoms, treatment and precautions for heat strokes in babies.
What Is A Heat Stroke?
Our body requires a certain internal temperature to carry out all its functions properly to keep us healthy. This is around 37 degrees Celsius and varies according to the time of the day. It's lower than that in the morning and higher in the afternoon. But our body also has its own mechanism to cool down, or basically regulate the temperature to keep it normal.
Body cooling may happen in one or more ways and it includes perspiration (sweating), radiation (body radiates heat), conduction (through physical contact with other objects) and convection (through movement of water or air molecules across the skin).
Sometimes, owing to various factors, this mechanism fails to be effective, and therefore the body temperature rises to an unhealthy level that can make you sick, or worse, become life-threatening. This condition is called a heat stroke. In babies, a heat stroke can cause very adverse effects because of the dainty condition of their bodies.
What Causes Heat Strokes In Babies?
You or our baby can have a heat stroke for a variety of reasons, but all converging into the same result.
Water is really important for the body - it's required in human cells, required to regulate temperature, to remove wastes, to keep the body moisturized internally, to aid digestion, for hydration, etc. When the body starts to lose the water content and becomes dehydrated, clearly, it becomes weaker and susceptible to heat strokes. As the body's temperature starts to rise, if not rehydrated thoroughly, it can lead to a heat stroke resulting in severe damage or death.
When your baby does not get the right amount of nutrition, his or her body will become malnourished and weak. Not only does malnourishment make the body prone to heat strokes, but it also causes a lot of other complications associated with poor health.
3. Hot external temperature
When the weather is really hot, with extreme temperatures, your baby will most likely suffer a heat stroke if his or her body is not properly hydrated. Ensure that your kids drink plenty of fluids and don't allow them to stay outside in the sun for too long. Don't dress them up in warm clothes. While travelling, don't leave your baby inside a parked car as the heat inside a stationary vehicle can be worse than that outside.
4. Suffocating clothing
Really tight clothing has been proven to make a lot of people sick, especially babies. This is because too tight or suffocating clothing causes overheating of the body, thereby increasing the risk of a heat stroke. Apart from that, tight clothing can also cause a range of other health issues in kids as well as adults.
5. Lack of oxygen
For multiple reasons, your child may encounter breathing difficulty or lack of oxygen at times. This lack of oxygen, again, weakens the entire body and causes overheating. If you're someone who lives in hot environments, the chances are high that your child will suffer a heat stroke for this reason.
There can be various other factors that cause a heat stroke but it depends upon the place you live, your lifestyle, health, etc. Consult your general practitioner for a more detailed analysis.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of A Heat Stroke In Babies?
The symptoms of a heat stroke begin mildly but slowly turn extreme. Since little babies aren't capable of explaining what exactly they're going through, knowing the symptoms beforehand and checking for them would significantly reduce the time in diagnosing a heat stroke and getting quick help. The following are the symptoms associated with a heat stroke.
1. Increasing body temperature or fever, which are not accompanied by any sort of sweating.
2. Increasing thirst with a dry mouth.
3. Dry eyes, sometimes dry skin or lethargy.
4. Headache and/or dizziness.
5. Muscle cramps.
6. Confusion and restlessness.
7. Increase in pulse, shortness of breath or even unconsciousness.
9. Extreme tiredness, sleepiness, and fatigue.
10. Passing less urine than usual.
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, then it would be best to rush to a hospital as they worsen with every passing minute even if they were in the mid-stage when you checked. Reaching a doctor on time can prevent the heat stroke from becoming fatal.
What Are The Treatments Available For Heat Strokes In Babies?
When it comes to a heat stroke, the treatment has to be urgent. And the best way to do it is to rush to the nearest hospital. Often, the symptoms of a heat stroke can be mistaken for a normal case of dehydration and parents end up giving their kids fluids to rehydrate their bodies. In the case of a heat stroke, even rehydrating the body will not help as the symptoms keep worsening slowly.
As soon as you suspect a heat stroke, call your emergency numbers. Take off all the clothes your baby's wearing and make them lie in a cool room if you're in a building and under the shade of trees if you're outside. Wipe your baby's body with a washcloth or sponge dipped in cold water. Make them feel cold by fanning them.
If your baby is still in the earliest stage of a heat stroke or displaying really mild symptoms, then you can feed them breast milk. You can also give water if your baby is older than 4 months. But if your baby is somewhat unconscious or having shortness of breath, avoid giving them fluids as they won't be able to swallow properly. However, it's always best to go to the doctor as soon as possible and diagnose what the child is suffering from.
The doctor may perform diagnostic tests which may include a rectal temperature examination, blood and/or urine test, muscle function tests, etc., to confirm that it is indeed a heat stroke. However, doctors would usually immediately know if it is a heat stroke and provide immediate medical assistance.
What Are Precautions And Home Remedies To Prevent A Heat Stroke In Babies?
In the case of heat strokes, all precautions are aimed at preventing the factors that cause overheating of the body.
Under normal circumstances, always keep your baby's body hydrated, especially if you live in places with a hot climate. It will not just reduce the risk of heat strokes, but it will also improve the overall health of your child.
2. Breezy clothing
Tight clothing can cause suffocation, overheat the body and also mess with your kids' blood circulation. Dress them up in loose or well-fitted clothing that allows air to enter the clothes.
When outside, keep your baby in the shade and don't leave them too long in the scorching sun. When the temperatures outside are extremely high, keep them confined to the house as much as possible. But that does not mean you can leave them in confined spaces like cars which tend to get overheated faster than open spaces.
If your baby is supposed to take certain medications for a medical condition, be extra careful as some medicines tend to dehydrate the body and make it vulnerable to heat strokes. Talk to your doctor to know more about the side effects of those medicines.
5. Cold showers
Give your kids a cold shower from time to time, especially when it is too hot outside. Cold showers will help regulate the kids' body temperature. Yet, if your child shivers after a cold bath, make them feel warm quickly as shivering is a process that produces more heat in the body.
Heat strokes are extremely dangerous and must be treated on time. Even if you take proper precautions, your child may suffer a heat stroke due to environmental and other reasons that aren't under your control. That's why always keep a close check on the baby's behaviour to see if there are signs of a heat stroke. Talk to your medical practitioner to know more about how a heat stroke can be managed effectively.