SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center
(314) 577-5600
www.cardinalglennon.com
 

First Aid: Heat Illness

Heat exhaustion starts slowly, but if it's not quickly treated it can progress to heatstroke. In heatstroke, a person's temperature reaches 105°F (40.5°C) or higher. Heatstroke requires immediate emergency medical care and can be fatal.

Signs and Symptoms

Of heat exhaustion:

  • increased thirst
  • weakness
  • fainting
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • irritability
  • headache
  • increased sweating
  • cool, clammy skin
  • elevation of body temperature, but to less than 105°F (40.5°C)

Of heatstroke:

  • severe headache
  • weakness, dizziness
  • confusion
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness leading to coma
  • seizures
  • may not be sweating
  • flushed, hot, dry skin
  • elevation of body temperature to 105°F (40.5°C) or higher

What to Do

If your child has symptoms of heatstroke, seek emergency medical care immediately. In cases of heat exhaustion or while awaiting help for a child with possible heatstroke:

  • Bring the child indoors or into the shade immediately.
  • Undress the child.
  • Have the child lie down; elevate feet slightly.
  • If the child is alert, place in cool bath water. If outside, spray the child with mist from a garden hose.
  • If the child is alert and coherent, give frequent sips of cool, clear fluids.
  • If the child is vomiting, turn onto his or her side to prevent choking.

Think Prevention!

  • Teach kids to always drink plenty of fluids before and during any activity in hot, sunny weather — even if they aren't thirsty.
  • Make sure kids wear light-colored, loose clothing in warm weather.
  • Don't let kids participate in heavy activity outdoors during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Teach kids to come indoors immediately whenever they feel overheated.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014