Every year nationwide, 300 people die from heat related illness. Dr. Thomas Schiller, a pediatrician with Lee Health, says the summer heat can quickly take its toll, especially on children. “In Florida, the worse time is August. What happens with heat related illness is our ability to stay cool is overwhelmed by the heat. So there’s two scenarios for that, there’s athletic kids and then there’s also kids that are stuck in hot places like locked cars. Both can be fatal.”
When kids are outside, doctors recommend finding ways to keep them cool by periodically taking them out of the direct sunlight, getting them plenty of water, and using sunscreen to protect their skin. “Sunscreen is always important and should not be ever overlooked,” said Dr. Schiller.
It’s important to recognize when kids are getting overheated. “There are three levels of heat exhaustion. The first part is where you’re sweating so hard that you’re getting dehydrated. So you’re feeling worn out, your blood is not circulating to you, you may have some confusion, and you just feel terrible. You need to stop and get hydrated,” said Dr. Schiller.
The second level of heat exhaustion is where the body starts to lose a lot of potassium and magnesium, causing muscles cramps. “The people who live down here are somewhat acclimated to the heat, but those people visiting and going to the beach and not drinking, are at a high risk for heat stroke,” said Dr. Schiller.
Heat stroke is the third phase of heat exhaustion. It happens when the body loses its ability to monitor and maintain a normal temperature. “Your temperature can skyrocket, and we’re talking 106 and above and it can go up to 108. When we start to get to those temperatures, we have fatality rates approaching 80 percent,” said Dr. Schiller.
Doctors say all heat related illnesses are preventable if kids and adults remember to stay hydrated and listen to their body.