Expert: Hot classrooms can lead to health problems

For LifeBridge nurse practitioner Kathleen Murphy, when it gets hot, the key is to be hydrated.

Especially during hot school days and intense workouts.

With the weather warming, many schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County still remain without air conditioning .

Hot classrooms can lead to health problems for students if they don’t take the time to prepare for the school day.

Murphy said increased temperatures can cause a series of problems for students, including a decrease in energy, being unable to focus and possible fainting.

She added that despite hot temperatures, studies show that children can function in the heat, especially in temperatures of 95 degrees.

“It’s all how you prepare for it,” she said. “In the hot summer months, you have students outside doing intense sports, it’s nothing new.”

She added that changing temperatures and more crowded classrooms now do make the learning environment different from when she was a student.

“I didn’t have air conditioning in my Catholic school,” she said. “Then again, it was a different time.”

To prepare for a hot school day, students should be well hydrated. In a hot building, they should also seek out a space that is cool.

Teachers should also be prepared to spot someone who might be showing signs of light-headedness.

“Healthy students will be able to deal with the heat better than someone who is getting over a severe viral infection,” Murphy said.

The push for air conditioning in public schools comes as school advocates push for better educational facilities.

Currently Baltimore City and Baltimore County public schools have buildings without cooling systems.

Surrounding counties like Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties upgraded their schools within the last decade.

RELATED: Lack of AC remains a concern in Baltimore City and Baltimore County

Julie Sugar, a member of the advocacy group Advocates for Baltimore County Schools, pushed the air conditioning issue after two students at Ridgely Middle school were taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion.

“Parents of children in non-air conditioned schools need to keep up the pressure to get those schools air conditioned,” she said.

In Baltimore City, 85 percent of schools received a failing rating in terms of building upgrades according to the 2012 Jacob’s report.

Murphy said she hasn’t seen an upswing in patients coming in to be treated for heat exhaustion, but noted it does happen.

“As it gets hotter, we just have to know our limit,” she said. “Hydration plays a key role in dealing with the heat.” 

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