How to Recognize Heat Illnesses in Babies & Toddlers

It is not a very cheerful topic to talk about but in this hot British summer I believe it is a very important topic. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be scary—and kids are at increased risk.

The best thing you can do is learn how to spot and prevent heat-related illnesses in your little one.

How we can prevent Heat Illnesses

· Teach kids to always drink plenty of fluids before and during activity in hot, sunny weather — even if they're not thirsty. Hydration is key.

·Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, thirst, dry lips and tongue, lack of energy, and feeling overheated. But if kids wait to drink until they feel thirsty, they're already dehydrated. Thirst doesn't really kick in until a child has lost 2% of his or her body weight as sweat.

· Make sure kids wear light-coloured, loose clothing and use sunscreen when outdoors.

· On hot or humid days, make sure your kids only participate in heavy activity outdoors before noon and after 6 p.m.

· Teach kids to come indoors, rest, and hydrate immediately whenever they feel overheated.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are brief, painful muscle cramps in the legs, arms, or abdomen that may occur during or after vigorous exercise in extreme heat. The sweating that occurs with intense physical activity causes the body to lose salts and fluids. This low level of salts causes the muscles to cramp.

Kids are particularly at risk for heat cramps when they aren't drinking enough fluids.

Although painful, heat cramps on their own aren't serious. But cramps can be the first sign of more serious heat illness, so they should be treated right away to help avoid any problems.

What to Do:

A cool place, rest, and fluids should ease a child's discomfort. If possible, give fluids that contain salt and sugar, such as sports drinks. Gently stretching and massaging cramped muscles also may help.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness that can occur when someone in a hot climate or environment hasn't been drinking enough fluids. Symptoms can include:

· increased thirst

· weakness

· fainting

· muscle cramps

· nausea and/or vomiting

· irritability

· headache

· increase sweating

· cool, clammy skin

· body temperature of 38C or above

What to Do:

· Bring your child to a cooler place indoors, an air-conditioned car, or shady area.

· Remove your child's excess clothing.

· Encourage your child to drink cool fluids containing salt and sugar, such as sports drinks.

· Put a cool, wet cloth or cool water on your child's skin.

· Stay with them until they are better.

· They should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.

· Call your doctor for advice. If your child is too exhausted or ill to drink, treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary.

If left untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke, which can be fatal.


The most severe form of heat illness is heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency.

In heatstroke, the body cannot regulate its own temperature. Body temperature can soar to 106°F (41.1°C) or even higher, leading to brain damage or even death if it isn't quickly treated. Prompt medical treatment is required to bring the body temperature under control.

Factors that increase the risk for heatstroke include overdressing and extreme physical activity in hot weather with inadequate fluid intake.

Heatstroke also can happen when a child is left in, or becomes accidentally trapped in, a car on a hot day. When the outside temperature is 93°F (33.9°C), the temperature inside a car can reach 125°F (51.7°C) in just 20 minutes, quickly raising body temperature to dangerous levels.

What to Do:

Call for emergency medical help if your child has been outside in extreme temperatures or another hot environment and shows one or more of these symptoms of heatstroke:

· severe headache

· weakness, dizziness

· confusion

· nausea

· rapid breathing and heartbeat

· loss of consciousness

· seizure

· no sweating

· flushed, hot, dry skin

· temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher

While waiting for help:

· Get your child indoors or into the shade.

· Undress your child and sponge or douse him or her with cool water.

· Do not give fluids unless your child is awake, alert, and acting normally.

Don’t forget, as exhausted parents our attention may lack, ALWAYS check the kids’ car seats in the back to make sure they are not in the car when you lock it. Leaving a child in the car in this heat is deadly!

Heather Weston


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