Heat Related Illnesses

Heat Related Illness

We all love being outdoors in the warmer months, but what happens if you get too warm?  Here are some heat related illnesses that you and your child should be aware of.


Heat Cramps

Muscle pain or spasms may arise during strenuous activity, particularly in the abdomen, arms, or legs.  Children who perspire freely (depleting their bodies of fluids) may be affected more.

What to do if you suspect heat cramps:

  • Take the child or teen into a cool place. If there is no place indoors, even a shady tree may help.
  • Give them water or a sports beverage to drink.
  • Gently massage the area that is painful or in spasm to help bring relief.
  • The child or teen should wait several hours before resuming physical activity, or the heat cramps may turn into heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • If the muscle cramping/spasm lasts more than an hour, seek medical attention.


Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the body’s way of letting you know it’s lost an excessive amount of water and salt contained in sweat.  Warning signs include: perfuse perspiration (sweating); muscle cramps; fatigue; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea/vomiting; fainting; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing.

What to do if you suspect heat exhaustion:

  • Use a thermometer to take their body temperature (preferably rectally). If the temperature is elevated to 103.1 degrees or higher, see the next section on “heatstroke.”
  • Like with heat cramps: take the child or teen into a cool place, either indoors or outdoors; give them water (or a sports beverage, if water is not available); and gently massage any areas that are painful or in spasm.
  • Prepare a cool bath, shower, or sponge bath
  • If symptoms get worse, or continue after one hour, seek medical attention, as untreated heat exhaustion can progress into heat stroke. Severe symptoms warrant an immediate trip to the hospital emergency department.



Heatstroke is a potentially deadly condition where the body’s thermostat, or temperature regulatory system, doesn’t work properly.  It’s not uncommon for body temperatures to soar to 105 degrees F or higher as fast as 10-15 minutes.  The child is also not able to sweat well enough, so the body heat is held in instead of released.

Symptoms of heatstroke include: oral temperatures of 103.1 degrees F or higher; red, hot, dry skin; nausea; dizziness; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; confusion; unconsciousness.

What to do:

  • Have someone call for emergency medical assistance while you begin to cool the child
  • Important: Do not give them anything to drink. In their state, they could accidently inhale the liquid into their lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia.
  • Move them inside, or to a shady outdoors area.
  • Remove as much of their clothing as possible.
  • Aim a fan or air-conditioner at them.
  • Get cool water on their skin, either by immersing them in a bathtub or shower. You can also give a sponge bath, spray them with a garden hose, or in low humidity wrap them in a cool, wet sheet.
  • Take their body temperature every five minutes, and continue trying to cool them until the thermometer reads 102 degrees F or less.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency department for further instructions.
  • Sometimes heatstroke victims begin to twitch uncontrollably or have a seizure. If they do begin to have a seizure, make sure the child does not injure themselves on any furniture nearby, and turn their head to the side to help keep their airways open (also do so if they are vomiting).