Our bodies create a tremendous amount of heat. Normally, they're cooled through sweating and by heat radiating through the skin.
But in very hot weather, high humidity, and other conditions, this natural cooling system may begin to fail, letting heat in the body build to dangerous levels. The can cause heat illness, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke.
Heat cramps are brief, painful muscle cramps in the legs, arms, or abdomen that may occur during or after vigorous exercise in extreme heat. The sweating that occurs with intense physical activity causes the body to lose salts and fluids. This low level of salts causes the muscles to cramp.
Kids are particularly at risk for heat cramps when they aren't drinking enough fluids.
Although painful, heat cramps on their own aren't serious. But cramps can be the first sign of more serious heat illness, so they should be treated right away to help avoid any problems.
A cool place, rest, and fluids should ease a child's discomfort. If possible, give fluids that contain salt and sugar, such as sports drinks. Gently stretching and massaging cramped muscles also may help.
Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness that can occur when someone in a hot climate or environment hasn't been drinking enough fluids. Symptoms can include:
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke, which can be fatal.
The most severe form of heat illness is heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency.
In heatstroke, the body cannot regulate its own temperature. Body temperature can soar to 106ºF (41.1ºC) or even higher, leading to brain damage or even death if it isn't quickly treated. Prompt medical treatment is required to bring the body temperature under control.
Factors that increase the risk for heatstroke include overdressing and extreme physical activity in hot weather with inadequate fluid intake.
Heatstroke also can happen when a child is left in, or becomes accidentally trapped in, a car on a hot day. When the outside temperature is 93ºF (33.9ºC), the temperature inside a car can reach 125ºF (51.7ºC) in just 20 minutes, quickly raising body temperature to dangerous levels.
Call for emergency medical help if your child has been outside in extreme temperatures or another hot environment and shows one or more of these symptoms of heatstroke:
While waiting for help:
To help protect kids from heat illness:
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014
|National Safety Council The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|A Guide to Eating for Sports You've prepared for the game in almost every way possible: but now what should you eat? Read about performance foods, nutritional supplements, and more.|
|Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke Instruction Sheet During hot, humid weather, the body's internal temperature can rise and can result in heat exhaustion, which can progress to heatstroke if not treated quickly.|
|Word! Heat Exhaustion Super hot in summer? Then watch out for this.|
|Dehydration Instruction Sheet Kids can become dehydrated when they lose abnormally large amounts of water and salts. It's important to replenish fluid losses as quickly as possible.|
|First Aid & Safety Center Boo-boos, bug bites, and broken bones - oh my! Here's your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about how to keep kids safe.|
|Why Drinking Water Is the Way to Go All living things need water to survive. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Sun Safety By teaching kids how to enjoy fun in the sun safely, parents can reduce their risk for developing skin cancer.|
|Dehydration Your body is about two thirds water. When the water level dips below that level, you could be dehydrated. Read about what causes dehydration, what it does to your body, and how to prevent it.|
|Dehydration Sometimes kids lose fluids and salts through fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or long periods of exercise with excessive sweating. Here are some tips on preventing or treating dehydration.|
|What's the Big Sweat About Dehydration? Our bodies need water to work properly. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|What You Need to Know in an Emergency In an emergency, it's hard to think clearly about your kids' health information. Here's what important medical information you should have handy, just in case.|
|Getting Help: Know the Numbers The best time to prepare for an emergency is before one happens. Make sure your family knows emergency phone numbers - and make sure your kids know how to place a call for help.|
|Is It Dangerous to Run in the Heat? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|How to Be Safe When You're in the Sun It's fun to be outside on a hot, sunny day. But too much sun and heat can make you feel terrible. Find out how to stay safe in this article for kids.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.