First Aid: Heat Illness

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First Aid

Heat exhaustion starts slowly, but if it's not quickly treated it can progress to heatstroke. In heatstroke, a person's temperature reaches 105ºF (40.5ºC) or higher. Heatstroke requires immediate emergency medical care and can be fatal.

Signs and Symptoms

Of heat exhaustion:

  • increased thirst
  • weakness
  • fainting
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • irritability
  • headache
  • increased sweating
  • cool, clammy skin
  • elevation of body temperature, but to less than 105ºF (40.5ºC)

Of heatstroke:

  • severe headache
  • weakness, dizziness
  • confusion
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness leading to coma
  • seizures
  • may not be sweating
  • flushed, hot, dry skin
  • elevation of body temperature to 105ºF (40.5ºC) or higher

What to Do

If your child has symptoms of heatstroke, seek emergency medical care immediately. In cases of heat exhaustion or while awaiting help for a child with possible heatstroke:

  • Bring the child indoors or into the shade immediately.
  • Undress the child.
  • Have the child lie down; elevate feet slightly.
  • If the child is alert, place in cool bath water. If outside, spray the child with mist from a garden hose.
  • If the child is alert and coherent, give frequent sips of cool, clear fluids.
  • If the child is vomiting, turn onto his or her side to prevent choking.

Think Prevention!

  • Teach kids to always drink plenty of fluids before and during any activity in hot, sunny weather — even if they aren't thirsty.
  • Make sure kids wear light-colored, loose clothing in warm weather.
  • Don't let kids participate in heavy activity outdoors during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Teach kids to come indoors immediately whenever they feel overheated.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014



Related Resources

OrganizationNational Safety Council The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.
OrganizationAAP Pediatric Referral Department Use this website to find a pediatrician in your area or to find general health information for parents from birth through age 21.
Web SiteChildren's Safety Network Made up of several resource centers funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Children's Safety Network works to reduce injuries and prevent violence for children and adolescents.


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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.
Sun Safety By teaching kids how to enjoy fun in the sun safely, parents can reduce their risk for developing skin cancer.
Heat Illness Active kids can be at risk for heat illness, which can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke. Learn how to prevent and treat heat illness.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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