HMC Urges Parents to Follow SMART Tips to Shield Children from Heat and Illnesses

Doha, Qatar: With schools closed and children at home for the long summer break, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) reminds parents and caregivers to protect children from excessive heat and humidity, which can lead to heat-related illnesses during the summer months.

Experts at HMC advise parents to be cautious and avoid exposing children to high temperatures or humidity during outdoor activities.

“Children are at a higher risk of heat-related illnesses because they don’t adapt to environmental changes as quickly as healthy adults,” explains Dr. Rafael Consunji, Director of Hamad Trauma Center’s Hamad Injury Protection Program (HIPP). He emphasizes the importance of ensuring children’s outdoor playtime occurs when temperatures and humidity are lower or in air-conditioned or shaded areas. He adds, "Hot weather poses a significant danger, particularly to children, whose body temperatures can rise five times faster than adults' on hot days."

Common signs and symptoms of heat stress and heat-related illnesses include elevated body temperature, cool/clammy skin, irritability, increased thirst/sweating, headache, dizziness, or weakness. If these symptoms are not recognized or treated, they can lead to more severe conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Children should not be left unsupervised to play outdoors. With rising temperatures, it’s crucial to remember the increased health risks. While parents may want to take their children to the beach, pool, or parks, it's essential to follow heat prevention precautions. Ensure children wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing, limit their direct heat exposure to 30 minutes or less, and encourage them to drink cold fluids every 15 minutes,” highlights Dr. Consunji.

Dr. Consunji recommends the following ‘SMART’ techniques to reduce the risk of heat-related illness in children:

  1. Supervise children during outdoor play to identify and address any signs of heat-related illnesses promptly.
  2. Monitor local heat and humidity forecasts using weather apps to stay informed of extreme temperatures or high humidity warnings.
  3. Avoid unshaded play areas and surfaces that absorb and reflect heat, like asphalt, concrete, and dark-colored or reflective surfaces.
  4. Regular breaks: Every 30 minutes, take children indoors to air-conditioned spaces or shaded areas. Encourage them to drink cool liquids every 15 minutes. Dry their sweat, provide a cool towel wipe, and change clothes if necessary. Use a phone alarm with lively sounds or songs to make breaks enjoyable for children.
  5. Time outdoor play before 10 am and after 4 pm to minimize dangerous heat exposure.