Understanding and Preventing Heat-Related Illness in Your Child

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 cramps
  • Severe: Heat StrokeNOTE: 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

How Is Heat-Related Illness Treated?

  • Remove your child from the heat, direct sun, or warm air that is causing the illness.
  • Give your child cold fluids, such as water, to drink to prevent dehydration. Infants can be given a children’s electrolyte solution.
  • Apply cool compresses on your child’s forehead, neck, and underarms.
  • Blow cool air onto your child’s skin with fans.
  • Give your child a bath in cool water to bring down body temperature. Make sure the water is not too cold.
  • Give your child over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to treat pain and fever. Do not give aspirin to a child with a fever. This can put your child at risk of a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.

Call the doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • A fever of 100.4°F or higher
  • Signs of dehydration (very dark or little urine, excessive thirst, dry mouth, dizziness)
  • Increased tiredness or lack of energy
  • A fainting spell

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 normal.
  • Spray cool water on your child to keep him or her cool.
  • Dress your child in fewer layers. Have your child wear a hat or a visor.

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