Heat illness: Helping your girls understand the dangers

Our forecasted high was in the 90s, with sun, and the girls wouldn’t drink much at camp. The cooler was half-filled with water at the end of the day. The girls just didn’t see the connection between heat and health.

The next morning, I sat them down in the shade, and had a little talk. I asked them how many had used the bathroom at all the day before at camp. Maybe half raised their hands – and that was with an opportunity once to use indoor plumbing rather than latrines.

I told our juniors that if they weren’t using the bathroom, they may not be getting enough fluids to keep themselves cool. I re-explained that sweat was your body trying to cool itself down, and at some point, it would run out. And that was cause for trouble.

I managed to convince some of the girls to fill up their bottles with water from the cooler. Some still balked, saying they don’t drink water. I shook my head and told them to top it off. I told them I’ve had passed out from the heat before, and it’s not a pretty sight. And, in fact, extreme heat could kill anyone.

And then we had a flag retirement ceremony. And not long into it, one girl turned to a co-leader and said her eyes were blurry. We quickly got her in the shade, lying down and cooling off with a cold compress, until the camp nurse could bring the golf cart over and get her inside.

Ninety minutes later, after her throwing up from heat illness and drinking fluids, she looked at me and said curiously, “I can read your shirt now.” The words were three inches tall.

Two hours later, she asked to join the girls at our butterfly garden planting. I looked at the nurse, and then responded she had to walk to the cooler and back. She said her legs were still wobbly. Needless to say, she stayed put…and didn’t feel truly well enough to join us for another three hours.

Our sweet girl – who thanked us that evening for helping her – learned her lesson, and was never without a nearly full bottle of water the remainder of our camp week.

Heat illness and heat stroke are nothing to play around with. And yes, it’s tough to impart that on 9 and 10 year old girls. But helping them understand the risks, the realities, and the signs that maybe something isn’t right is the first thing we as leaders need to do when venturing outdoors.

It’s why it is so critical we as leaders get our First Aid certification. But in the meantime, if you need help learning the signs of heatstroke or heat illnesses, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

I want to end this with a great quote I read recently on Girl Scout Gab. Hopefully it will be memorable for your scouts!


One comment

  1. Wow, that is scary. I hope several of the girls learned their lesson from that experience. I’m glad it wasn’t more serious.


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