Heat-stroke in children can occur without proper hydration or rest. 

During hot summer months, spending time outside is okay as long as your child is protected by sunscreen with an adequate SPF, proper hydration, clothing and several rest periods.

Heat exhaustion in children

Heatstroke spikes during summer months, and it is essential for parents, kids and athletes to be mindful of the heat,” warns Dr. Troy Smurawa, M.D., Director of Pediatric Sports Medicine at the Children’s Health Institute. “Often, they don’t recognize the effects of the heat, and this can get them into trouble with heat illness.”

Before heat stroke symptoms appear, kids often show signs and symptoms of milder heat illnesses such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion. This can occur after a child has been exercising or playing in the heat and becomes dehydrated from losing excessive fluids and salt from sweating.

Signs of heat exhaustion in children may include:

  • An elevated body temperature, usually between 100˚ and 104˚ Fahrenheit
  • Cool, clammy skin despite the heat
  • Goosebumps
  • Fainting, dizziness or weakness
  • Headache
  • Increased sweating
  • Increased thirst
  • Irritability
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and or vomiting

Children may be at a higher risk for heat exhaustion if they:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are taking certain medications
  • Have a sunburn
  • Are sick

It is important to treat heat exhaustion immediately, as it can develop into Heatstroke. If your child shows symptoms of heat exhaustion, you should:

  • Bring your child to a cool, shaded place – preferably in an air-conditioned building or vehicle.
  • Encourage them to drink cool fluids that contain salt (like sports drinks).
  • Apply a cold, wet towel or sponge to the skin.
  • Gently stretch or massage sore muscles if your child complains of painful muscle cramps in their legs, arms or abdomen.

If your child cannot drink or seems to be losing alertness, call your doctor or seek medical attention immediately.

Heatstroke in children

Heatstroke is a severe type of heat illness that occurs when a child’s body creates more heat than it can release. This results in a rapid increase in core body temperature, leading to brain damage or death if not promptly treated.

Signs of Heatstroke in children may include:

  • A body temperature that rises dangerously high – above 104˚ Fahrenheit
  • Absence of sweating
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Flushed, hot and dry skin (skin may be wet)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Severe headache
  • Seizures
  • Weakness and or dizziness

Heatstroke can become a medical emergency if your child is showing signs or symptoms of Heatstroke. If this occurs, you should seek emergency medical treatment immediately and take the following actions as soon as possible:

  • Bring your child indoors or into the shade and undress them.
  • Begin rapid cooling by immersing them in a bathtub of cold water.
  • If a bathtub is not available, apply cold towels over much of the body, replacing them frequently.
  • Avoid pushing fluids unless your child is conscious and alert.

Heatstroke in babies

Heatstroke in a baby is rare but very dangerous. For example, allowing a baby or child to stay outside too long in hot weather, ride in a hot car or sit in a parked car – which should never occur – can cause their body temperature to rise quickly.

Since babies and very young children can’t tell you when they’re uncomfortable, watch for unusual behaviours or concerning symptoms, such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting

How to prevent heat illness in kids

Parents can take simple steps to keep children safe from heat exhaustion and Heatstroke:

  1. Try to enjoy outdoor activities during cooler times of the day, such as early in the morning or later in the evening.
  2. Try to seek shade as much as possible when outside, especially when taking a rest or water break.
  3. Choose clothing that is loose-fitting, light-coloured and moisture-wicking rather than heavy cotton. Consider choosing sun protective clothing for days when your child is outside for several hours at a time.
  4. Schedule frequent water breaks to cool off and avoid dehydration.

If you would like more information on Heat Exhaustion or Heatstroke, please call our clinic at 345-949-2970. If you believe your child is experiencing symptoms of Heatstroke, contact 911 immediately.