Children are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses than the average adult. They’re also less likely to respond appropriately to thirst, overexertion, and hot temperatures. However, every parent should understand how to recognize this pediatric emergency and know what to do to prevent heat exhaustion from turning into life-threatening heatstroke.
What’s the difference between heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses?
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are all similar, but represent varying degrees of medical urgency. Heat cramps are the least serious type, and they’re typically caused by physical exertion in hot weather. Heat exhaustion is more serious, and children who have it should be seen by a pediatrician. If the raised body temperature, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances aren’t corrected, the patient can develop heatstroke. Heatstroke is life-threatening and requires emergency care.
How can I recognize heat exhaustion?
The symptoms of heat exhaustion can develop quickly or gradually. Watch out for the following red flags when your child is outdoors, especially if he or she is engaging in physical activity.
- Muscle cramps
- Cool, moist skin
- Heavy sweating
- Rapid pulse
If it isn’t treated promptly, heat exhaustion may progress to heatstroke, which is indicated by a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If your child has any of the following symptoms of heatstroke, he or she needs to see an emergency pediatrician immediately.
- Trouble breathing
- Flushed or red skin
- Lack of sweating
How can I help my child feel well again?
Possible heatstroke in a child necessitates a 911 call. If your child has the less serious heat-related illness, you should move him or her into an air conditioned room. Remove any very tight clothing or excess clothing. Instruct your child to lie down and prop up his or her legs to elevate them above the heart. Kids with heat exhaustion should consume an oral rehydration solution. If this isn’t available, then plain water, a sports drink, or juice will suffice. Your child should feel better within 30 minutes. If not, or if symptoms worsen, your child requires immediate medical attention.
Emergency pediatricians in the DFW area provide rapid, effective care when your child needs it most. Pediatrics After Hours features extended hours to connect families to medical care when their regular doctors aren’t available. You don’t have to make an appointment, but you can call our urgent care facility at 972-355-2273.