UAE: Kids at greater risk of heat stroke than adults, doctors warn after 7-yr-old dies in car

Since children can't recognise and communicate heat-related symptoms, it leads them to overexert themselves

by

SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Sat 11 May 2024, 12:19 PM

Last updated: Sun 12 May 2024, 4:07 PM

As the summer approaches and temperatures continue to rise, doctors are advising parents to protect their children from heat and direct sun exposure.

Concerns about the impact of heat exhaustion on children have risen following the tragic death of a child who was locked inside a car.


Doctors noted that children are at a greater risk of heat exhaustion that may lead to heatstroke compared to adults, due to their faster metabolism and undeveloped cardiovascular systems.

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“Physiologically, children's smaller size and higher surface area-to-mass ratio mean they absorb heat faster and have a harder time cooling down. Their developing sweat glands and lower sweat rates make it challenging for them to regulate body temperature efficiently. Children have faster metabolisms, producing more heat during activity or in hot weather. Their limited fluid reserves and less developed cardiovascular systems further increase their risk,” Dr Osama Elsayed Rezk Elassy, a clinical assistant professor, consultant, and head of division at the Centre for Pediatrics and Neonatology at Thumbay University Hospital, told Khaleej Times.

Dr. Osama Elsayed Rezk Elassy
Dr. Osama Elsayed Rezk Elassy

According to Dr Elassy, infants and children are at a bigger risk since they still can't regulate their own body temperature. Since they also can't recognise and communicate heat-related symptoms, it leads them to overexert themselves.

Children's faster metabolism

Dr. Noha Mohamed Ali Kharie, a consultant in Pediatrics at Zulekha Hospital said that children's developing sweat glands contribute to lower sweat rates, making it challenging for their body to regulate their temperature.

“Children's faster metabolisms result in increased heat production during activity or in hot weather, exacerbating their susceptibility. Moreover, limited fluid reserves and less developed cardiovascular systems further elevate their risk of heat-related illnesses,” said Dr. Kharie.

Dr. Noha Mohamed Ali Kharie
Dr. Noha Mohamed Ali Kharie

“Children feel heat and humidity faster and more severely than adults and have a harder time cooling down. Children play outside more than adults, and they may be at greater risk of heat stroke and exhaustion because they may lack the judgement to limit exertion during hot weather and to rehydrate themselves after long periods,” added Dr Kharie.

Know the symptoms

Doctors stress the importance of recognising subtle differences in symptoms between children and adults. While both may exhibit similar signs of heat exhaustion, such as fatigue, weakness, nausea, and headache, children may experience more pronounced dehydration symptoms, including vomiting or diarrhoea.

“Children may not express their discomfort as readily as adults, often displaying behavioural changes like irritability or clinginess. Dehydration symptoms, such as dry mouth or decreased urine output, can be more pronounced in children and may include vomiting or diarrhoea, particularly in younger patients,” said Dr Elassy.

Doctors warn that without timely treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a potentially fatal emergency.

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