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Heat Reactions

There are three main reactions to an extremely hot environment. All three are caused by excessive loss of water through sweating.

Heatstroke or Sunstroke

Symptoms

  • hot, flushed skin
  • high fever (at least 105F, or 40.6C)
  • not sweating
  • delirium or unconsciousness
  • shock (low blood pressure).

First aid

  • Call your child's health care provider IMMEDIATELY.
  • The high fever can be a life-threatening emergency. Cool your child off as rapidly as possible. Move him to a cool place. Sponge him with cool water (as cold as is tolerable), and fan him. If your child is unconscious, immersion in cold water could be life-saving. Note: Ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) will not help.
  • If your child is conscious, give him a glass of cold water to drink every 15 minutes until he feels better.
  • Call for emergency transportation.

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms

  • cold, pale skin
  • no fever (temperature less than 100F, or 37.8C)
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • weakness.

First aid

  • Call your child's health care provider IMMEDIATELY.
  • Put your child in a cool place. Have him lie down with his feet elevated.
  • Give your child a glass of cold water to drink every 15 minutes until he feels better.
  • Your health care provider will probably want to examine your child's state of hydration. After 2 or 3 glasses of water, you can drive in. Continue to offer your child water during the ride.

Heat Cramps

Symptoms

  • severe cramps in the limbs and abdomen
  • no fever.

Home care

Heat cramps are the most common reaction to excessive heat. They are never serious. Give your child a glass of cold water to drink every 15 minutes until he feels better. Children with heat cramps do not need to be seen by a health care provider.

Prevention

When your child is working or exercising in a hot environment, have him drink extra fluids. Avoid salt tablets because they slow down the absorption of water. Light-colored, lightweight clothing will help keep your child cooler.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-03-02
Last reviewed: 2006-03-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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