Identifying and Treating Heat-Related Illnesses

Summer’s here and the weather is already getting hot. As we spend more time outdoors, heat-related illnesses become a concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a helpful list of how to identify the symptoms of various heat-related illnesses and what to do when you or a loved one shows those signs.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is caused by your body overheating, most often as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. Be sure to note that with heat stroke, you should not give the person anything to drink, unlike with heat exhaustion or heat cramps (see below).

What to look for:

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

What to do:

  • Call 911 right away-heat stroke is a medical emergency
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
  • Do not give the person anything to drink

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the result of exposure to high temperatures and is often accompanied by dehydration. It is the middle step from heat cramps (see below) to heat stroke (see above).

What to look for:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting (passing out)

What to do:

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen your clothes
  • Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
  • Sip water

Get medical help right away if:

  • You are throwing up
  • Your symptoms get worse
  • Your symptoms last longer than 1 hour

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy exercise in hot environments. The spasms may be more intense and prolonged than the typical night cramps.

What to look for:

  • Heavy sweating during intense exercise
  • Muscle pain or spasms

What to do:

  • Stop physical activity and move to a cool place
  • Drink water or a sports drink
  • Wait for cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity

Get medical help right away if:

  • Cramps last longer than 1 hour
  • You’re on a low-sodium diet
  • You have heart problems

Sunburn

Sunburn is a form of radiation burn due to overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, most commonly from the sun or tanning beds. It is one of the most common heat-related illnesses and can lead to skin cancers later in life.

What to look for:

  • Painful, red, and warm skin
  • Blisters on the skin

What to do:

  • Stay out of the sun until your sunburn heals
  • Put cool cloths on sunburned areas or take a cool bath
  • Put moisturizing lotion on sunburned areas
  • Do not break blisters

Heat Rash

Heat rash occurs when the skin’s sweat glands are blocked and the sweat produced cannot get to the surface of the skin to evaporate and cool the body. This causes inflammation that results in a rash.

What to look for:

  • Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin (usually on the neck, chest, groin, or in elbow creases)

What to do:

  • Stay in a cool, dry place
  • Keep the rash dry
  • Use powder (like baby powder) to soothe the rash

The CDC also has an infographic with this informationthat you can easily share on social media.

Photo © 2012 by Conservation Law Foundation and Emily T. Starrunder Creative Commons license.

Understanding Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma is a scary term for a parent, and when many parents hear the term, they think of exposure to violence in the community or abuse in the home. But childhood trauma is much more than just those experiences, and research shows that 20% to 25% of all children in the United States will experience some form of trauma before they reach adulthood. In fact, several recent studies have shown that childhood trauma can alter a child’s DNA.

The Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition (ICTC) has a website to help parents understand childhood trauma and how to get help for their child. The website, called Look Through Their Eyes, provides a one-minute introductory video about childhood trauma, a broader look at what childhood trauma is, and information and resources on bullying and community violence. There is also information on how to identify childhood trauma at various ages and where you can go for help if your child has experienced trauma.

The ICTC identifies some of the most common causes of childhood trauma as:

  • Accidents
  • Bullying/cyberbullying
  • Chaos or dysfunction in the house
  • Death of a loved one
  • Domestic violence
  • Emotional abuse or neglect
  • Incarcerated parent
  • Parent with a mental illness
  • Physical abuse or neglect
  • Separation from a parent or caregiver
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stress caused by poverty
  • Substance abuse
  • Sudden and/or serious medical condition
  • Violence (at home, at school, or in the surrounding community)
  • War/terrorism

Visit Look Through Their Eyesto learn more about childhood trauma.

Keeping Your Family Safe Outdoors

Summertime means more time outside, and that’s a good thing for both kids and adults. It also means making sure your family is safe from concerns that aren’t a problem other times of the year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have tips to keep your family safe outdoors dealing with:

Sun Safety

When it comes to sun safety, the primary concern is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, which causes most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Excessive exposure to UV light as a child can show up as skin cancer as an adult, so early precautions to protect your child’s skin now can pay off in the future. The CDC recommends protecting skin by:

  • Seeking shade, especially during late morning through mid-afternoon.
  • Wearing clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wearing a hat with a wide brim that shades your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wearing sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.
  • Remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

The CDC has additional information on each of these points.

Mosquito and Tick Bites

Mosquito and tick bites are not just painful annoyances, but potential sources of diseases like West Nile Virus(mosquitos) and Lyme disease(ticks). While both of these diseases are relatively rare, occurrences both West Nileand Lyme diseasein Illinois have increased significantly in the last 15 years. The CDC’s recommendations for protecting yourself and your family from mosquito and tick bitesinclude:

  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellentcontaining DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Do not spray insect repellent on skin under clothing.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • Don’t use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old, and don’t use repellents containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Check for ticks on yourself, your child, and your pet after being outdoors, especially if they have been near taller grasses and plants.

If you, your child, or your pet should pick up a tick, the CDC has instructions on how to safely remove it.

Poisonous Plants

The primary poisonous plants that people worry about in the United States are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. The old saying “Leaves of three, Let it be!” is a helpful reminder for identifying poison ivy and oak, but not poison sumac which usually has clusters of 7-13 leaves. Even poison ivy and poison oak may have more than three leaves and their form may vary greatly depending upon the exact species encountered, the local environment, and the season. Being able to identify local varieties of these poisonous plants throughout the seasons and differentiating them from common nonpoisonous look-a-likes are the major keys to avoiding exposure. Check out the CDC page for pictures to help you identify these plants.

All three of these plants release an oil, called urushiol, when the leaf or other plant parts are bruised, damaged, or burned. When the oil gets on the skin an allergic reaction, referred to as contact dermatitis, occurs in most exposed people as an itchy red rash with bumps or blisters. When exposed to 50 micrograms of urushiol, an amount that is less than one grain of table salt, 80% to 90% of adults will develop a rash. Burning these poisonous plants can be very dangerous because the allergens can be inhaled, causing lung irritation. Exposure to urushiol can come from:

  • Direct contact with the plant
  • Indirect contact, such as touching tools, livestock, or clothing that have urushiol on them
  • Inhalation of particles containing urushiol from burning plants

The CDC has information on how to identify exposure to a poisonous plant and how to treat it.

Photo © 2010 by Stefan Jacobsunder Creative Commons license.

Handbook Helps Local Leaders Engage Districts on ESSA

Local implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the focus of many new resources for stakeholders, as school district begin to create their own ESSA implementation plan. One of the latest, which National PTA contributed to, is Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA—Issue 2: A Handbook for Local Leadersfrom Partners for Each and Every Child and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This is a follow up to Issue 1, which focused on school district and school leaders.

The handbook focuses on how school districts, families, and community advocates can engage in three key areas:

  1. Needs Assessments and Priority-Building
  2. School Improvement Strategies
  3. Resource Alignment

The first area is designed to help school districts determine their needs for school improvement and increasing student achievement. Districts then engage with their families and communities to prioritize these needs.

The second area takes those priorities and looks at strategies schools can use to improve student achievement. The handbook covers how districts can use a “whole child” approach (like Illinois has chosen in its state ESSA implementation plan) to meet student needs. Areas covered include:

  • Improving Data Systems and Reporting
  • Restructuring Academic Assessments
  • Incorporating Technology in the Classroom
  • Introducing Advanced Coursework
  • Increasing Access to After-School and Expanded Learning
  • Creating a Positive/Pro-Social School Climate
  • Increasing Nutrition and Food Access
  • Aligning and Supporting Early Childhood Education
  • Reducing Chronic Absence
  • Increasing Access to the Arts
  • Supporting English Learners
  • Supporting Students with Disabilities
  • Supporting Students in Foster Care and Experiencing Homelessness
  • Supporting Teachers and Leaders

The final area of focus is resource alignment. After prioritizing needs and selecting strategies, school districts must determine how to adequately fund those school improvements. This section help districts and advocates with resource mapping and budgeting. Opportunities for ESSA funding from federal and state governments are covered as well.

Finally, the report provides additional resources and tools, as well as a glossary of terms that those new to the discussion may not be familiar with. Download the reportand begin discussing with your school and district how your PTA can be involved in creating your district’s ESSA implementation plan.