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How are children different from adults?

Disasters affect children differently than they do adults. Learn more about the unique needs of children during and after disasters.

Photo of a child playing with a toy train
  • Children’s bodies are different from adults’ bodies.
    • They are more likely to get sick or severely injured.
      • They breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults do.
      • They have thinner skin, and more of it per pound of body weight (higher surface-to-mass ratio).
      • Fluid loss (e.g. dehydration, blood loss) can have a bigger effect on children because they have less fluid in their bodies.
    • They are more likely to lose too much body heat.
    • They spend more time outside and on the ground. They also put their hands in their mouths more often than adults do.
  • Children need help from adults in an emergency.
    • They don’t fully understand how to keep themselves safe.
      • Older children and adolescents may take their cues from others.
      • Young children may freeze, cry, or scream.
    • They may not be able to explain what hurts or bothers them.
    • They are more likely to get the care they need when they have parents or other caregivers around.
    • Laws require an adult to make medical decisions for a child.
    • There is limited information on the ways some illnesses and medicines affect children. Sometimes adults will have to make decisions with the information they have.
  • Mental stress from a disaster can be harder on children.
    • They feel less of a sense of control.
    • They understand less about the situation.
    • They have fewer experiences bouncing back from hard situations.

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