Before little ones go down the slide at the playground, it’s a good idea to check how hot it is to prevent burns.
“Even when it’s not that hot outside, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that plastic slides, swings, and surface material can become hot enough to burn a child’s skin,” Medical City Weatherford Medical Director of Emergency Services Dr. Nathan Holbrook said.
Children age 2 and under are the most sensitive to being burned by playground equipment, Holbrook said. Those looking after children should feel the temperature of the equipment before letting kids play on it.
Holbrook also said kids should wear pants and shoes to prevent skin contact on hot surfaces. More generally, equipment should be checked for sharp edges and points to avoid, and drawstrings should be removed from clothing to prevent it from catching on equipment. Children on the playground should be supervised at all times.
According to the National Institute for Standards and Technology, human skin begins to feel pain at a temperature of 111 degrees, such as hot bath water.
At 118 degrees, human skin can sustain first-degree burns, and a second-degree burn injury can occur at a temperature of 131 degrees.
Human skin is destroyed when temperatures reach 162 degrees.
WebMD suggests the following for those who have sustained a thermal burn:
• Hold burned skin under cool (not cold) running water or immerse in a cool water until pain subsides.
• Cover with sterile, non-adhesive bandage or clean cloth.
• Take over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
• Seek medical help if you see signs of infection, like increased pain, redness, swelling, fever or oozing.
• Call 911 if the burn penetrates all layers of skin, if the skin is charred or if the person is an infant or a senior.
Kids should also be protected from heat related illnesses, Holbrook said.
“Texas sun and heat can be extremely dangerous,” Holbrook said. “You have to continually protect against sunburn, dehydration and heat illness. Just 15 minutes of UV ray exposure can cause sunburn, which may not turn red for hours. And physical activity in high temperatures can lead quickly to dehydration, heat rash, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which is a serious medical emergency.”
Kids should drink plenty of fluids before and during activity in the heat even when they’re not thirsty, Holbrook said. They should also wear sunscreen when outside, particularly SPF 30 or higher and a UVA/UVB type with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Sunscreen should be applied every two hours to exposed skin.
Kids should wear light-colored clothing when outdoors and only participate in heavy outdoor activity before noon or after 6 p.m., Holbrook said. If feeling overheated, kids should come indoors, rest and hydrate. Call 911 if heat stroke or heat exhaustion is suspected.
According to AccuWeather, a change in the weather pattern is bringing about the season’s first heat wave.
A ridge of high pressure will position itself over Texas into early next week, allowing the hot air that has been baking the western United States to spill farther east into the southern Plains.
The combination of scorching sunshine, moderately high humidity and temperatures some 5-10 degrees above normal will increase the risk for heat-related illness for those spending prolonged periods of time outdoors.
Dr. Erik Ledig, an emergency medicine physician at Texas Health Willow Park, offered the following tips for being safe in the heat:
• Take frequent breaks: preferably use air conditioned areas, or shaded areas.
• Wear clothing that is light weight, light colored and loose fitting.
• Drink plenty of fluids (ensure access to fluids). In extreme heat one cannot keep up with the loss of fluids even if drinking a lot of fluids. Thus, frequent breaks out of the heat are needed.
Also, loss of salt and minerals can be replaced with the use of sport drinks, such as Gatorade.
• Limit exercise during high heat and start off with a gradual pace. Schedule outdoor activities when it is the coolest (like in the morning or evening).
• Stop all activity and move to a cool location and get medical aid when needed if having heat related symptoms (such as fatigue, heavy sweating, headache, cramping, dizziness, heart pounding, nausea or vomiting, elevated body temperature, red hot dry skin, confusion, fainting or seizures).
• Use a buddy system.
• Those at high risk of heat related issues are infants, young children, elderly 65 and over, those overweight, those who overexert during the workout, and those with chronic medical conditions, physically ill or on certain medications.
By Wednesday, the high pressure will shift back into the Four Corners region, allowing thunderstorms that erupt in the central Plains to dive southward and put an end to the heat wave in the southern Plains.
The heat relief may not last long as there are indications that more triple-digit temperatures may be in store next weekend or during the following week.
Holbrook said it’s always too hot to leave a child alone in the car, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rolling down the windows makes little difference.
“It only takes 10 minutes for a car’s interior to heat up by 20 degrees,” Holbrook said. “And a child’s temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s, due to a still-developing central nervous system. So it’s not hard to see how the numbers can add up quickly.”
To avoid forgetting a child in the car, Holbrook gave some tips to prevent this, such as leaving something by the child in the car that the driver won’t forget like a cell phone, purse or shoe. He said drivers should check the back and front of their vehicles before leaving the car. Setting a reminder on a smartphone or downloading a baby reminder application, calling the spouse when the child is dropped off, having the daycare call when the child hasn’t shown up and placing a stuffed animal in the passenger seat can all serve as reminders for people caring for children.
Another idea is creating a custom rearview mirror hang tag that drivers can flip over to indicate when the child is in the car or not, Holbrook said.
If a child is missing, Holbrook suggested checking the trunk and vehicle interior. Kids should also be taught not to play in vehicles.