When a heat wave recently hit Edmonton, Canada, Jennifer Abma kept her two young daughters inside, safely away from the sweltering 90-degree temperatures. Everything seemed fine until Anastasia, 3, went to her bedroom for a nap after playing with her 1-year-old sister, Ariel.
Ninety minutes later, when it was time to get Anastasia up from her nap, the toddler wouldn't wake up. Her mother panicked.
“She was sweating and swollen and red,” Jennifer told TODAY. “It was awful.”
THIS was my evening, this was the scariest moment I've had to imagine, THIS is severe heatstroke. There is nothing scarier than not being able to wake your baby up. THIS is clear proof a child doesn't need to be in the sun to get heat stroke. It took us 20 minutes to wake her up, when ambulance came, they came with investigators because they didn't know what to expect as did I. This was proof how fast things change. Anastasia put herself for a nap, I had no idea how hot her bedroom was until I went to wake her up soaked in sweat, red face, boiling and unable to wake her for 15 minutes, ambulance arrived faster then I could have ever imagined and took her sugars which were 1.2 and should be above 4, they administered sucrose and in minutes she started crying clearly scared. No it is not my fault this happened to her but it is hard not to blame yourself, this is a lesson learnt & hopefully other parents can take something from this & make sure you are checking the rooms in your house because thy can be as dangerous as a hot car. Still I'm shook and I can't imagine what would have happened if I didn't go check on her. We definitely had god on our side yesterday and I am thankful for emergency services and Jay who came as fast as possible to keep me together. ❤️💕🔥 #iloveyou #summertime #heatstroke #reality
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Anastasia’s bedroom felt excessively hot, so Jennifer called paramedics. When they arrived, they discovered that Anastasia's body temperature was 104 F, with the temperature in the bedroom about 122 F. The little girl's blood sugar was low: she was experiencing heatstroke.
The paramedics orally gave her sugar and, eventually, Anastasia opened her eyes.
“It took 15 minutes to wake her,” Jennifer said. “She got really, really lucky. She was probably minutes away from permanent damage.”
Anastasia was frightened of the strangers in her room, but otherwise seemed like her normal self. The paramedics told Jennifer that allowing Anastasia to sleep in a hot room was almost the same as leaving her in a car on a hot day.
“It is not something you would think of happening in your kid’s bedroom,” she said. “You blame yourself. ‘Why did I let her go nap by herself?’”
The town in northwestern Canada rarely sees temperatures over 80 and Jennifer's house doesn’t have air conditioning. The window was open and the blinds were closed, but without a fan, there was not enough air circulating in the room. The 23-year-old single mother was mortified her daughter suffered heatstroke in her own house, but shared the experience on Instagram.
“Hopefully other parents can take something from this & make sure you are checking the rooms in your house because they can be as dangerous as a hot car,” she wrote.
Infants and young children, as well as the elderly, have more difficulty regulating their body temperature and are at special risk of heatstroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
'It doesn't take long'
In the summer, especially when it is humid, heat exhaustion and heatstroke can be common, said Dr. Mike Patrick, an emergency room pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, who did not treat Anastasia. Humidity makes it harder for the sweat to evaporate, which is important for cooling the body.
“Even within 10 minutes in a hot closed-up [space], you can really max out your body’s ability to cool itself off. It doesn’t take long,” said Patrick, who also hosts a podcast about children’s health, called Pediacast.
When the sweat fails to evaporate, people become dehydrated, which causes imbalances with electrolytes and sugar. That’s when things become dangerous. These imbalances can cause heart arrhythmias and heart attacks.
“The mechanisms you need to keep cool are not able to keep up,” he said.
Most times, parents notice their children are ill before heat exhaustion turns into heatstroke, which occurs when the body temperature raises above 104 degrees.