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3 children have died after heat emergencies in the last 2 weeks in Arizona

A Phoenix skyline
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The sun sets over Phoenix.

At least three children have died in Arizona in the last two weeks following heat-related emergencies.

A 10-year-old boy whose family had recently moved to Phoenix died on a 113-degree day last week after a hike on South Mountain. A 4-month-old girl died Friday after being taken on a boat on Lake Havasu in 121 degree weather. And a 2-year-old girl died Tuesday after being left in a car in Marana when the high was 111. According to police, the girl’s father said he had left the air conditioner running in the car, but it had shut off and the child was unresponsive by the time he returned.

Older adults tend to be the population most susceptible to heat-related death in Arizona. Last year, 60% of heat-related deaths in Maricopa County were among adults over the age of 50, county records show.

But these rare cases show children face serious risks in extreme heat, too.

Dr. Jon McGreevy, assistant director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said kids’ bodies can be more vulnerable to the effects of heat than adults’ bodies.

“Based on their size, they have a lot more surface area exposed to the sun, so that extra exposure creates higher risk for them,” McGreevy told KJZZ News. “Their metabolism is faster, they’re running, playing, doing those types of things, so they generate more heat. And then they sweat less efficiently, so that puts them at higher risk for developing those types of heat-related illnesses.”

In addition to that, kids often can’t recognize symptoms of heat illness in themselves, McGreevy said.

“They don’t have the words to tell us those things, so as parents, we have to be really watchful and try to recognize those symptoms in our kids, especially in our young children,” McGreevy said.

On these excessively hot summer days, McGreevy recommends parents and caregivers keep kids indoors from midday to early evening, make sure children stay well hydrated, and watch kids closely for symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headache or excessive sweating.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.
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