Keeping children cool and hydrated in the hot summer heat are vital to preventing heatstroke.

By Kelli J. Shidler, M.D.

As the summer days heat up, it is important to monitor your child's outdoor activities in order to avoid heat-related illnesses. When the temperature rises, a child is likely to sweat excessively and lose a lot of water. This loss of water can lead to dangerous conditions, including heat (sun) stroke and heat exhaustion.

To avoid heat-related illness, make sure your child drinks plenty of water when playing, exercising, or working in the heat. In order to replace the significant amount of fluids lost from sweating, a child should take water breaks at least every 25-30 minutes. Electrolyte beverages, such as Gatorade, are not needed unless your child has been exercising for over an hour.

Symptoms of Heatstroke

  • A fever of at least 104°F
  • Unconsciousness or deliriumChild may or may not be sweating
  • Flushed skin that is hot to the touch
  • Fast heart rate, nausea and vomiting

Although a high fever above 105°F is not life threatening, the appearance of any of these symptoms is cause for concern. If you notice one or more signs of heat stroke, call for an ambulance and contact a physician immediately. It is essential that you cool your child down right away by moving her to a cool place, sponging the skin with cool water or ice packs and fanning her body.

If your child is not unconscious, have him drink at least one glass of cold water every 15 minutes until an ambulance arrives.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Skin that may be cool and pale
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Weakness

With heat exhaustion, the child may or may not have a fever. In the event of heat exhaustion, call a physician immediately. Have your child lie down in a cool place and encourage him to drink a cold glass of water every 15 minutes until he feels better. Most likely, your child's doctor will want to examine him right away to be sure he is appropriately hydrated.

To avoid heat-related illness while spending time in the heat, Boys Town Pediatrics suggests wearing light-weight, light-colored clothing, taking cold water breaks in the shade every half hour, and changing clothing when it becomes wet with perspiration. In addition, limit exercise to short periods of time when temperatures rise above 82°F.