Preventing the 3H’s of Heat Illness in Kids - Cincinnati Children's Blog

Preventing the 3H’s of Heat Illness in Kids

We often hear about keeping the elderly safe during extreme summer heat but kids are equally susceptible.

Heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps are three reactions caused by exposure to high temperatures combined with high humidity – the kind of conditions we are expecting this week in many parts of the country.

Heat stroke is the worst-case scenario in the realm of the body’s reaction to heat. Symptoms include hot, flushed skin; a fever over 105° F; the absence of sweating; confusion; shock; and sometimes seizures. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and needs to be treated promptly.

Heat exhaustion is caused by overexertion in the heat. Symptoms include pale skin; profuse sweating; nausea, dizziness, fainting, or weakness. Most of the symptoms are caused by dehydration from sweating. A child who does not respond to fluid rehydration should be seen by a physician.

Heat cramps are most common in the abdomen and legs, especially the calf or thigh muscles. Tightness or hand spasms can also occur, but none of these symptoms are accompanied by a fever. Stopping the activity, rehydrating, cooling off and gently stretching the muscles are the best treatment for heat cramps.

It’s tough to keep kids inside all day during the heat.

During a recent television interview on FOX 19, Dr. Eric Kirkendall of Cincinnati Children’s advised parents and caregivers to limit outdoor play time to early morning or late afternoon. Keep them well hydrated with water, and take frequent breaks to allow them to come inside and cool off.

Avoiding Heat Exhaustion

If you notice that your child exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion:

• Put the child in a cool place. Have him lie down with the feet elevated.
• Undress him (except for underwear) so the body surface can give off heat.
• Sponge the entire body surface continuously with cool water without causing shivering. Fan the child to increase heat loss from evaporation.
• Give the child as much cold water to drink as is tolerable until he or she feels better.
• For severe symptoms, take the child to be seen by a physician.

Treating Heat Stroke

• Call 911 immediately.
• Cool the child off as rapidly as possible while waiting for Emergency Medical Services to arrive. Move the child to a cool shady place or an air-conditioned room; sponge the entire body surface with cool water (as tolerated without causing shivering); and fan the child to increase evaporation.
• Keep the feet elevated to counteract shock.
• If the child is awake, give as much cold water to drink as he or she can tolerate.
• Fever medicines are of no value for heat stroke.

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Cincinnati Children’s News Team

About the Author:

The members of the news team at Cincinnati Children's are responsible for telling the stories of the medical center. Stories of the families we serve, research and clinical care, safe and healthy practices and happenings at the hospital. If it has to do with Cincinnati Children's, Danielle, Nick, Jim, Kate, Rachel, Terry and Shannon will keep you informed.

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