Heat-related Illness in Children

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)
    • Having swelling in hands and fingers (heat edema)
    • 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 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 Stroke

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

  • Sweating a lot!
  • Having moist, pale, or flushed skin
  • Having deep, fast breathing
  • Having headache or nausea
  • Having rapid, weak, or irregular pulse
  • Feeling dizzy, confused, or delirious. Altered mental status is most important and this makes it a medical emergency.  
  • 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.
  • If alert enough, 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 head, neck, groin, 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.

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

  • Fever
    • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
    • In a child 3 to 36 mnths, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher
    • In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
    • A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older
    • Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever
  • 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:

  • Have your child rest and take breaks during exercise or physical activity.
  • Avoid the hottest part of the day (in summer, 2PM-6PM because the sun is hottest early afternoon and the earth gives of stored up heat in late afternoon)
  • Give your child plenty of fluids to drink.
  • Slowly and progressively increasing to 30 minutes in the heat over 2 weeks so that your body gets acclimated (sweat more and earlier to cool the body).
  • Dress your child in appropriate clothing for the weather.  Wear light colors, especially one that wick sweat. 

On hot days, also do the following:

  • Keep your child indoors or in shaded or cool areas.
  • Give your child more fluids than normal.