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  • How to Protect Children, Seniors, and Athletes During Hot Weather

    The heat dome has dissipated. That doesn’t mean hot weather has ended, however. It’s summer, and in most states in the continental U.S., temperatures will remain in the 80s and 90s during the day. For that matter, another heat wave could easily strike.

    Some people are more sensitive to prolonged heat than others. They include children under 4 years old, adults over 65, overweight people, and people who are ill or on some types of medication, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Even healthy people can get a heat-related illness if they work or exercise outside for a longer period.



    Three happy children hot weather

    Children are vulnerable for several reasons, according to the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), a partnership of federal agencies to reduce heat-based illness and death. Young children’s bodies don’t get rid of heat as efficiently, and they have a higher metabolic rate than older children and adults. Children rely on others to keep them safe because they don’t yet have knowledge or resources of their own.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists three ways to protect children from heat-related illness.

    • Never leave children in a parked car, even for a short time and even if the windows are open. When the outside temperature is more than 72 degrees, the temperature inside a car increases by 19 degrees in 10 minutes and by 29 degrees in 20 minutes, according to a study published in Pediatrics in 2005. Keeping the windows cracked reduced the temperature rise by just 3 degrees. This year, so far, 26 children have died from heatstroke after being left in cars.
    • Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Remember hats and sunblock.
    • Seek medical care immediately if a child has symptoms of heat-related illness.


    Adults Over 65

    Senior couple in hot weather

    Just like young children, people over 65 years old can have more difficulty regulating body temperature, according to the NIHHIS. This can exacerbate many chronic illnesses. One study in New York City found that every degree Centigrade increase caused a 4.7 percent increase in hospital admissions for respiratory illness for older patients.

    The CDC has five recommendations for older adults to keep cool.

    • Drink cool – not extremely cold – nonalcoholic beverages. Talk to a doctor if you have a restricted fluid intake or if you’re on water pills.
    • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
    • Seek an air-conditioned environment and stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. If you don't have air conditioning, visit an air-conditioned public place like a shopping mall or library.
    • Wear lightweight clothing.
    • Don’t engage in strenuous activity. Rest when possible.

    If you know an older adult, you can help them by checking on them frequently in hot weather, encouraging them to drink if medically permissible and taking them to an air-conditioned place if they have transportation trouble.



    high school football player training in hot weather

    Fall sports season is beginning. Football season! Student athletes are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness this time of year, according to the NIHHIS. The NIHIS said every year, about 9,000 high school athletes alone are treated for heat illness, like heat stroke or muscle cramps. Most are football players. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of deaths from heat stroke doubled among high school and college football players.

    The CDC makes several recommendations to protect athletes from heat-related illness.

    • Limit outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest. Schedule workouts early or late.
    • Wear sunscreen and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
    • Start activities slow and pick up the pace gradually.
    • Drink more water than usual, even when you’re not thirsty. Muscle cramps may be an early sign of heat-related illness.
    • Monitor a teammate’s condition, and have someone do the same for you. Seek medical care immediately if you see symptoms of heat-related illness.


    It’s not too late for all homeowners to prepare for upcoming heat waves. Ready.gov has some tips. If the home has a window air conditioning unit, make sure it’s installed snugly, and insulate it if necessary. If it has central air conditioning, check ducts for cleanliness and insulation. Tune up both types of air conditioners yearly.

    Prepare windows and doors. Weather-strip doors and windowsills to help keep hot air out and cool air in. Use covers like drapes, blinds or awnings to keep out direct sunlight. Or, cover cardboard with aluminum foil or a foil emergency blanket and install it in a window to reflect heat from outside.




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  • The Pillowcase Project - Preparing Children for Emergencies

    How much of your stuff can you fit in your pillowcase?

    No, I’m not talking about your major haul from trick-or-treating at Halloween. I’m talking about in the event of an emergency, what do you have around the house that you would need to take with you that can fit inside a pillowcase?

    Pillowcase Project - Red Cross Pillowcase Project via Red Cross

    The Red Cross has a program called the Pillowcase Project in which children learn all about local hazards, basic coping skills, as well as family and personal preparedness. One of the ways this program helps children learn about emergency preparedness is by using their pillowcase as an impromptu emergency kit. The pillowcase makes it easy to carry their belongings and emergency supplies, and they can even decorate their pillowcase with useful information, such as steps to take during an emergency.

    FEMA has a printout of things children should have in their emergency kits. Items include toothbrush and toothpaste, change of clothes for three days, water, food, and flashlights with extra batteries. The list also includes comfort items, including books, games, puzzles, and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.

    Having these personal toys can help bring a feeling of normalcy to an otherwise frightening situation. If you think it will be tough for you to go without your modern comforts, just think what it must be like for them! These comforting toys can really go a long way in helping your children cope during an emergency.

    Make sure your children know what they should bring before an emergency happens. This means you will need to find a way to go over this information with your children multiple times until they understand and know exactly what it is they need to do.

    When discussing disasters with your kids, try not to alarm them overly much. Staying calm yourself during an emergency can really help with your children’s demeanor.

    In the event of an emergency, swift action must be taken. There usually isn’t a lot of warning time before an evacuation happens. In the case of a fire, evacuation must be immediate. That means there won’t be time to decide what to take, or even scarier, which of their favorite toys to leave behind.

    Of course, children aren’t always going to be at home when a disaster comes. Besides teaching them about things to grab at home, also teach them about proper ways to act at school, their friend’s house, or anywhere else they may be.

    Teach your children how to properly prepare for emergencies. The Pillowcase Project is just one method, but there are other ways to teach your children. Find the method that works best for you and your children, and makes sure they know what to do when an emergency happens.


    How do you help your children prepare for disasters? Let us know in the comments!


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  • Tips for Helping Children Cope During Disasters

    On September 8, as part of National Preparedness Month, PBS Kids ran a disaster-themed episode of Arthur, a cartoon aimed at school-age children. On the show, all the characters had to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane: family members leaving, homes and businesses destroyed, staying in a shelter, helping others. The children also faced the emotional consequences of the disaster.

    In the aftermath of a disaster, taking emotional care of yourself and your family can be hard. Yet, especially for children, that care is vital.

    Helping Children Cope - Images“How much are young children affected by events that take place around them? A lot,” according to Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization for early childhood development. Even though they may not understand the meaning of what they see or hear, children absorb the images that surround them and are deeply impacted by the emotions of the people they rely on for love and security.”

    A great way to take care of children emotionally is let them help with emergency preparation.

    In the Arthur episode, the character Muffy happily described how her family prepared for the upcoming hurricane.

    “Oh, the Crosswires are super prepared. We have a generator, tons of spring water, both sparkling and distilled, and three cases of smoked trout.”

    Children can help make emergency kits. They can practice fire and other disaster drills. They can learn emergency contact information.

    “Social science research and anecdotal evidence support the idea that children who have learned about emergency preparedness experience less anxiety during an actual emergency or disaster,” according to Ready.gov.

    Helping Children Cope Turning off the television is a great way in helping children cope with disasters. Too many negative images can really pay a toll on their emotional well-being.

    After a disaster, turn off the TV and be careful following other media, say Cynthia Moore and Paula Rauch, authors of an e-book about helping children cope that was written for the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The need to follow every update can exacerbate adult anxiety, which children sense. Young children may think repeated images are new ones, which can make a disaster seem even worse than it is, they wrote.

    Instead, listen to children and talk to them after a disaster. For young children, that means playing with them, naming feelings and helping them color or tell stories.

    “Answer children’s questions according to their level of understanding: ‘Yes, a bad thing happened but we are keeping you safe,’” said the Zero to Three guide.

    Children Serving - Helping Children Cope Having children serve those effected by disaster is a great way in helping them cope with the same event.

    A great way to help older children cope is to get them involved helping others. It can be as simple as writing letters or making cookies for friends, or helping collect supplies for others in need. On Arthur, the title character built a web site to help pet owners reunite with their pets.

    “Helping can be incredibly healing and empowering,” according to Ready.gov.

    Talking is also therapeutic for older children. If they have suffered a loss, let them know the trouble won’t last forever. Keep it casual and find another trusted adult if they won’t talk to you, said a Ready.gov guide, “Helping Children Cope.”

    With all ages, “bear in mind that talking with your child involves more listening than talking,” Moore and Rauch wrote.

    When taking care of children, don’t forget to take care of you, recommended the guide from Zero to Three. Get back to a routine as soon as possible. Share feelings with family and friends. Eat well, exercise and get rest. If necessary, get professional help. Take time to enjoy your children.

    You can find all sorts of resources online to help children prepare for and cope with disasters. Here are a few.

    The e-book, Community Crises and Disasters, by Cynthia Moore and Paula Rauch, is a guide to help families deal with disaster. It was written for the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The authors are health care professionals who work in a family crisis center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    Ready.gov has a section devoted to children with games and resources for parents, educators and children.

    PBS Kids made a companion site for its emergency preparedness specials. It has videos, activities, a coloring page, and guides for adults.


    - Melissa


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