Children are more prone to the effects of extreme temperatures, including heatstroke, because heat tolerance is affected by body size. Children are smaller and weigh less, which makes them more vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heatstroke occurs when body temperature rises quickly and stays high. This can be caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures, physical exertion, dehydration, back-to-back sports activities, or improper clothing in heat. While heatstroke is serious for all people, it can become life-threatening more quickly for children.
Recognizing Symptoms of Heatstroke
To prevent serious injury or death due to child heatstroke, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke:
- Excessive thirst
- Rapid heartbeat
- Muscle cramps
- Flushed skin
- Severe headache
- Rapid breathing
- Lack of sweat
The sooner you recognize the signs of child heatstroke, the better chance you have of preventing a life-threatening situation.
Responding to and Preventing Heatstroke
If a child is suffering from a heat-related illness, you should seek medical help immediately. It is also crucial to start lowering their body temperature as quickly as possible. Move the child to a cooler location with either shade or air conditioning. Excess clothing should be removed, and you should also encourage your child to drink water or a sports drink that includes salt or sugar. Placing a cool cloth on your child’s head can also be helpful.
There are also measures you can take to prevent heatstroke in the first place. Baby heatstroke can be caused by time in hot vehicles. Overdressing a child in hot weather or putting them under blankets can also contribute to potential heatstroke in infants.
To prevent child heatstroke, make sure your child is dressed appropriately for the weather and activity. If needed, bring different clothing options in case conditions change. If your child is involved in sporting practices or competitions, make sure that they have ample time to rest between exertions. Provide plenty of water to your children during activities and in hot weather, and take breaks in cooler areas where shade or air conditioning is available.
Heatstroke is preventable and so are many other safety threats to you and your family. Use every tool you can to keep them safe, especially during the summer months. Our comprehensive safety resource guide is a great place to start.