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Preventing Heat-Related Illness in Kids

Amid this summer’s heatwaves and record-breaking temperatures, it’s an important time to know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness in kids. Extended exposure to sun or heat can lead to everything from dehydration and muscle cramps, to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. Learn how to identify and treat these conditions in children, and when it’s time to seek professional treatment.

Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness in Kids

Heat Cramps

If your child is an athlete or simply a wild child who is extra active during the summer, they might complain of heat cramps. Intense exercise in hot weather can bring on these painful, involuntary muscle spasms. Heat cramps can involve any muscle group, but are generally felt in the calves, arms, abs or back.

While these muscle spasms are more intense and prolonged than your typical nighttime leg cramp, they aren’t cause for too much concern.

How to treat your child’s heat cramps:

  • Have your child rest, cool down, and drink plenty of fluids
  • Give clear juice, coconut water, or a sports drink to help replenish electrolytes
  • Use gentle stretching and massage can ease pain
  • Make sure they stop activity and rest for at least a few hours
  • If cramps last longer than an hour, call your doctor, or head to our pediatric urgent care clinic for a quick evaluation and advice.

    Heat Exhaustion

    Heat exhaustion is a slightly more serious heat-related syndrome. Extended hours playing in the heat and sun, combined with dehydration, can lead to serious symptoms such as:

    • Heavy sweating
    • Cold, clammy skin with goosebumps
    • Feeling faint or dizzy
    • Rapid, weak pulse
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Muscle cramps
    • Tiredness or weakness
    • Headache
    • Left untreated, these symptoms can progress into severe heatstroke. If you suspect heat exhaustion in your child, here are immediate actions to take:

      • Get them out of the heat and into a shady, cool, or air-conditioned place
      • Lay the child down and elevate their legs and feet
      • Loosen clothing, removing anything tight or heavy
      • Cool down the body with cold towels, a cold bath, or mist
      • Give cool water to sip

      If symptoms aren’t improving, seek immediate medical treatment. Our urgent care is a good choice for mild symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration in kids.

      Heatstroke

      Heatstroke is the most serious heat-related illness, and requires emergency treatment. Symptoms include:

      • Body temperature of 103°F or higher
      • Flushed red skin that feels hot and dry
      • Racing pulse
      • Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, or otherwise altered behavior
      • Fast, shallow breathing
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Losing consciousness (passing out)

      Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 or go directly to the ER. While waiting for emergency care, take steps to cool the overheated child down:

      • Move out of the sun and heat.
      • Cool the child down with any means available – ice packs, wet towels, water from a garden hose, etc.
      • Do not give the child anything to drink.
      • As you now know, heat-related illness can range from minor cramps to deadly heatstroke. Take precautions against these conditions by keeping kids hydrated, using sun protection, dressing them in light, loose clothing, and making sure they take it easy when the temps rise.

        Our pediatric urgent care is here to care for minor medical concerns and heat-related illness in kids.