GREENWOOD, Ind. — Health experts are urging caution for children spending time at summer camps during this week’s extreme heat.
At the Greenwood Parks and Recreation summer day camp, children were limited to two hours of outdoor playtime Tuesday. All children in the program were ordered indoors at 11 a.m. as the state was under an excessive heat warning.
While children were outside playing, all activities involved water as a way to stay cool. The morning started at the Greenwood Community Center with children playing on a slip-and-slide.
“Yesterday we had water balloons, water fun fights, and Thursday we’ll be going to our city pool,” said director Erin Swisher. “Obviously, our first priority is to make sure the kids are safe at our program.”
Even when outdoor activities aren’t limited due to excessive heat warnings, Swisher said outdoor fun is still limited on hot days.
“We will only let them stay outside for no longer than two hours at a time,” she said. “We let them go back, retreat for a little while inside, and come back out later in the afternoon.”
During the two-hour activity times, water, sunscreen and shade breaks are maintained once an hour. And children have constant access to water bottles provided by the camp program.
“We’ve got both the water bottle and the cooling towels available for the kids to dip in the water and put around their necks and run around with those all day as well,” Swisher said.
Children in the program are divided into pods of 25, with three counselors per pod keeping an eye out for any signs of heat-related problems.
“Obviously, if the kids are getting sick, they will tell us that they have a headache,” Swisher said.
Headache is one of the early signs of heat-related illness in children. It’s something adults need to watch for, according to pediatricians.
“Something we say in pediatrics a lot is children are not little adults. They can present differently with a lot of things,” said Dr. Kara Kowalczyk, pediatric emergency physician at Riley Children’s Hospital.
“They don’t sweat nearly as much as adults, so they can heat up a lot faster, and it takes their bodies longer to acclimate to high-heat changes,” Dr. Kowalczyk continued.
Another thing to keep in mind is that children who are having fun may not stop to take a water break unless an adult requires them to.
“Kids want to go play,” Dr. Kowalczyk said. “They don’t want to stop and drink, but really having mandatory drink breaks and making them drink to stay hydrated.
“Camps, sports practices, supervisors really need to make sure we are giving kids extra breaks, extra time in the shade, encouraging them to drink,” she said.
In general, the emphasis needs to be on drinking water. Randy Pim, a director at Camp Allendale, said all carbonated drinks have been cut out for children at the campgrounds this week.
Signs of heat exhaustion among children can include:
- An elevated body temperature, usually between 100˚ and 104˚ Fahrenheit
- Cool, clammy skin despite the heat
- Goose bumps
- Fainting, dizziness or weakness
- Increased sweating
- Increased thirst
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Signs of heat stroke in children may include:
- A body temperature that rises dangerously high, above 104˚ Fahrenheit
- Absence of sweating
- Confusion, disorientation
- Flushed, hot and dry skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
- Severe headache
- Weakness and/or dizziness