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First Aid: Heat Illness

First Aid

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 life-threatening.

Signs and Symptoms

Of heat exhaustion:

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

Of heatstroke:

  • severe headache
  • weakness, dizziness
  • confusion
  • fast breathing and heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • seizures
  • little or no sweating
  • flushed, hot, dry skin
  • body temperature rises to 105°F (40.5°C) or higher

What to Do

If your child has symptoms of heatstroke, get emergency medical care immediately.

For 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; raise the feet slightly.
  • If the child is alert, place in a lukewarm bath or spray with lukewarm water. 
  • 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 liquids 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.
  • Remind kids to look for shaded areas and rest often while outside.
  • 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: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: July 2018