Children’s Health & Extreme Heat

Playing Outdoors in Philadelphia

When exposed to heat and humidity, children are at higher risk of heat-related illness than most adults, and this can be worse if a child becomes dehydrated. For children’s day-to-day activities, consult the Heat Index – a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature. However, the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is a better tool if you are planning children’s outdoor exercise. WBGT factors temperature, humidity, wind, solar radiation, and more to calculate an indicator of heat stress for active populations, such as student athletes.

To protect children from extreme heat:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Stay in the shade or better, an air-conditioned area.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
  • For student-athletes, enforce more breaks in shaded areas.
  • Schedule sports practice and other activities earlier or later when it is cooler and in the shade.
  • Train coaches and summer camp personnel to be observant of signs of heat-related illnesses.
  • Use sunscreen frequently.

Extreme heat events are also an environmental justice concern. During the summer months, cities can get 1.8 to 5.14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than surrounding areas, creating an urban heat island effect. Studies show that “The average person of color lives in a census tract with higher surface heat island intensity than non-Hispanic whites in all but 6 of the 175 largest urbanized areas in the continental United States.”

Extreme heat can be brutal on anyone, but children and pregnant people are especially vulnerable to the negative health impacts of this and other aspects of climate change. The unequal distribution of extreme heat risk is also just one of the interconnecting disproportionate harms from climate change and environmental injustices to people of color and those with lower incomes.

For more information:

– Article by the Children’s Environmental Health Network

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