The Hanover Insurance Group offered suggestions to help parents and organizers of youth activities to help minimize heat-related injuries, which can cause serious illness and even death.
"Parents and youth organizers are working hard to make summer activities fun and educational," said Mike Billings, vice president of loss control programs at the Hanover, in a release. "But sun and heat exposure can unexpectedly create dangerous situations. Program leaders and parents are wise to create a dedicated heat plan and ensure that they follow guidelines to help maintain safety."
Of all heat-related illnesses, heat exhaustion and the more severe heat stroke are the most dangerous. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, muscle cramps, difficulty breathing, confusion and dizziness. If gone untreated, body systems and organs can begin to shut down, resulting in a life-threatening condition.
"Such policies can mitigate illness and save lives. Parents shouldn't hesitate to inquire about an organization's Hot Weather Policy to help ensure the safety of their children," said Billings.
A Hot Weather Policy should include:
Training for program staff to recognize initial symptoms of heat illness, such as headaches, unusual tiredness, dizziness and nausea, and how to provide appropriate treatment. Having a written summary of these elements is often helpful as a refresher.
Guidelines for understanding, measuring and reacting to temperature and humidity levels. For instance, reducing activities when the heat index tops 95 and cutting off activities above a heat index of 105. Whatever the guidelines are set at, it is always a good practice to reinforce these with staff on those days when heat and humidity levels may meet or exceed target levels.
Provide participants with frequent water breaks. Dehydration contributes to heat-related illness so staying hydrated is very important. Everyone should be asked to drink water during breaks even if they don't feel thirsty. Avoid icy cold drinks and those that are exceptionally sweet as these may worsen the situation.
Action plan for reacting to heat stroke emergencies with body- cooling arrangements. If a heat illness is suspected, immediately remove the person to a shady or air-conditioned area. Provide cold drinks to get fluids back, loosen clothing, and spray or sponge with cool water. Cooling should continue even if an ambulance is called, as the body may only withstand heat illness for about 30 minutes.
The Hanover suggests that parents ask about and review program materials for evidence of adequate hot weather training for any program their children will be attending. If the issue is not addressed in writing, then it is suggested that parents should speak with program managers about how staff is trained to recognize and deal with heat illness and what facilities are accessible should a child become overheated.
The Hanover Insurance Group offers property and casualty products and services.
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