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Prevent Heat-Related Illness in Your Child

Boy drinking water from bottle sitting on grass outdoors.

Heat-related illness occurs when the body’s temperature gets too high. Body temperature can be affected by the temperature of the air and by level of physical activity. To protect your child from heat-related illness, follow the tips on this sheet.

What are the symptoms of heat-related illness?

Heat-related illness can range in symptoms from mild (heat cramps), to moderate (heat exhaustion), to severe (heat stroke).

  • Mild: heat cramps

    • Sweating a lot

    • Having painful spasm in muscles during activity or hours later (heat cramps)

    • Developing tiny red bumps on skin and a prickly sensation (heat rash or prickly heat)

    • Feeling irritable, dizzy, or weak

  • Moderate: heat exhaustion

    • Sweating a lot

    • Having cold, moist, pale, or flushed skin

    • Feeling very weak or tired

    • Having headache, nausea, loss of appetite

    • Having rapid or weak pulse

    • Having painful muscle cramps

  • Severe: heat stroke

    If your child has symptoms of heat stroke, call 911 or take your child to the emergency department right away.

    • Not sweating

    • Having hot, dry skin that looks red, gray, or bluish

    • Having deep, fast breathing

    • Having headache or nausea

    • Having rapid, weak, or irregular pulse

    • Feeling dizzy, confused, or delirious

    • Fainting

    • Having convulsions or other shaking movements

How is heat-related illness treated?

If your child has symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, call 911 or take your child to the nearest emergency department. You can also start treatment yourself by doing the following:

  • Remove your child from the heat, direct sun, or warm air that is causing the illness; move to an air-conditioned area, if possible.

  • Give your child chilled fluids, such as water, to drink to prevent dehydration. Infants can be given a children’s electrolyte solution. If your child won't drink fluids, or has more serious signs of heat-related illness, IV fluids may be needed.

  • Apply cool compresses on your child’s forehead, neck, and underarms.

  • Use a fan to blow cool air onto your child’s skin.

  • Give your child a bath in cool water to bring down body temperature. Make sure the water is not too cold.

How is heat-related illness prevented?

You can do the following to prevent your child from getting heat-related illness:

  • Give your child plenty of fluids to drink.

  • Dress your child in appropriate clothing for the weather.

  • Have your child rest and take breaks during exercise or physical activity.

On hot days, also do the following:

  • Keep your child indoors or in shaded or cool areas.

  • Give your child more fluids than usual.

  • Spray cool water on your child to keep him or her cool.

  • Dress your child in fewer layers and loose fitting clothing. Have your child wear a hat or a visor.

Online Medical Reviewer: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2020
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