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

    NOTE: 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.

  • 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 ibuprofen to an infant 6 months of age or less, or to a child who is dehydrated or constantly vomiting. 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.

When to call the doctor

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:

  • 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.


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