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.
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.
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
Having convulsions or other shaking movements
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.
Call the healthcare provider if your child has any of the following:
Fever (see Fever and children, below)
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
Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.
For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.
Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.
Infant under 3 months old:
Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.
Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Child age 3 to 36 months:
Rectal, forehead, or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Armpit (axillary) temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Child of any age:
Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider
Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.
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.
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.