Heat-related illnesses have a more profound effect on children than other people. Children have a smaller body mass to surface area ratio than adults, can lose fluid more rapidly, and tend to play outdoors in the extreme heat. They also do not have the capacity to make judgments about protective measures in extreme heat. Children may show the following symptoms: behavioral changes, dizziness or fainting, rapid breathing and rapid heartbeat, extreme thirst, hot dry skin, headaches, reduced volume of urine which may be dark yellow, etc.
Best Practices for Extreme Heat
- • Re-hydrate the child over a period of time.
- • Keep the child in a cool and shaded area.
- • Have the child wear light clothing.
- • If the child is lethargic, not responsive, has a fever or continues to be dehydrated, seek immediate medical attention.
Aftermath of Wildfires
Wildfires create numerous environmental hazards, especially for children because of their unique physiology and size. These hazards include fire, extreme heat, and smoke; combustion of wood, plastics, and other materials in homes and other structures, which release a large number of hazardous chemicals as well as various sizes of particulate matter; landslides; and acute stress from the emergency and severe emotional reactions.
The smoke consists of very small inorganic and organic particles, liquid droplets, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds. Eye irritation and respiratory tract irritation are common. Lung function is reduced substantially and there is a worsening of preexisting lung or cardiovascular disease, especially asthma.
Ash becomes a serious potential hazard because it is very irritating to the skin, nose, and throat and may cause severe coughing. Ash and dust from burnt structures may contain a series of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals including asbestos, arsenic, lead, formaldehyde, and a multitude of other substances depending on what was in the buildings.
Debris can cause physical and physiological problems. Broken glass, exposed electrical wires, nails, wood, metal, plastics, and other objects can cause wounds, especially puncture wounds, electrical injuries, and burns.
During the recovery phase, the children may be exposed to a whole new environment to which they are unaccustomed which can lead to additional injuries and accidents. The soil may be contaminated with hazardous materials such as lead. There may be persistent hotspots which can burst into flame without warning.