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The Blog

Keeping kids safe in a heat wave

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Temperatures are heating up across the globe (hello, climate change).

It’s important to know how to keep your child safe.

High temperatures can cause children to become sick with heat exhaustion, dehydration, and in severe cases: heat stroke. 

Let’s go over some terminology:

Heat exhaustion occurs in children without proper hydration and rest in heat and can occur in many warm temperatures. Heat waves can make it worse. 

Signs of heat exhaustion include one or a combination of all these symptoms:

  • An elevated body temperature between 100-104
  • Feeling cool and clammy despite being in the heat
  • Fainting, looking out of it, dizzy, weak, or a verbal child reporting being light-headed
  • Headache
  • Increased sweating 
  • Irritability 
  • Nausea or vomiting

Extra caution should be taken with infants. An infant or a non-verbal child will not express discomfort so watch for irritability, vomiting, a rapid heart rate, and listless (getting very quiet from baseline, distant, not their normal interactive level). 

Many of these symptoms can be associated with a virus as well, but it is really important to monitor these symptoms. 

If you notice any of the signs mentioned above:

  1. Bring them into a cool shaded place (air-conditioned vehicle or building is preferred)
  2. Give them liquids (check out this blog for signs of dehydration and tips for rehydration)
  3. Apply cool towels on the back of their neck and forehead. You can use an ice pack or cold washcloth or towel.
  4. Monitor the symptoms closely. If hydration and the cooler environment do not help their symptoms, they will not drink anything, or they are not alert at their baseline, seek medical attention.

If a child is experiencing heat exhaustion for a prolonged period of time, they can experience a heat stroke.

A heat stroke is a severe situation where a person’s body temperatures rises so quickly and is unable to cool itself down leading to damage to the brain and other organs (an unfortunate example is a child left in a hot car). 

Signs of a heat stroke include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, or slurred speech. Think: a child who is incoherent or not interacting with you at their baseline developmental level
  • Loss of consciousness (not responding to you)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating 
  • Seizures
  • An extremely high body temperature of over 105

A Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal. Make sure you are keeping a close eye for heat exhaustion so heat stroke isn’t even a possibility. 

You can prevent heat exhaustion and subsequent heat stroke by:

  • Planning outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day (before 9am or after 5pm). If you’re hot, they’re probably too hot too! Check out this blog for indoor activities for your kid in inclement weather (extreme heat, rain, or snow). 
  • Always try to aim for playing in the shade versus the direct sun. 
  • Make sure to take water breaks and breaks in the shade if playing in the sun. 
  • Keep them hydrated:
    • For a breastfed or formula-fed infant, also make sure you keep them hydrated with their usual form of nutrition. Stay on top of hydration before the dehydration gets on top of them! 
    • For older children, give them their normal liquids to PREVENT dehydration: water is wonderful. ​​Ice chips are also an option. Remember, ice cubes can be a choking hazard for toddlers, so stick to crushed ice or ice chips. 
  • Choose loose-fitting, light-colored, and breathable clothing.
  • Monitor the signs mentioned above

With a heat wave, it may mean spending more time indoors; but remember this can help keep your kid healthy and safe from heat related illnesses. 

Don’t forget to check out this blog on signs of dehydration AND how to manage it! 

P.S. – Follow the PDT Instagram, where I share posts, fun reels and even highlights on different topics!

Dr. Mona Admin

Hi there!

I’m a Board Certified Pediatrician, IBCLC, and a mom of two.

I know the ups and downs of becoming a mom and raising kids.

I help moms ditch the worry and second-guessing so you can find more joy in motherhood.


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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.