Heat Reactions: Prevention

There are three main reactions a child might have to a hot environment: heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. All heat reactions are caused by high temperatures and an excessive loss of water from the body. When humidity is high, heat reactions happen more quickly because it is hard to sweat. To prevent your child from having a heat reaction, follow these suggestions:

  • Make sure your child drinks a lot of cool water whenever she is working or exercising in a hot environment. Water is ideal for replacing lost sweat. Sports drinks such as Gatorade offer no advantage over water unless your child has been exercising for over an hour.
  • Have your child take 5-minute water breaks every 25 minutes in the shade. Teens should drink 8 ounces every 30 minutes. Encourage your child to drink water even if he is not thirsty. He may not feel thirsty until he is almost dehydrated.
  • Don’t give your child salt tablets. They are not necessary. They also slow down stomach emptying and delay the absorption of water, which the body badly needs.
  • Dress your child in a single layer of light-colored, lightweight clothing. Your child should change clothes if they become wet with perspiration.
  • Limit sun exposure during the middle of the day.
  • Athletic coaches recommend that exercise sessions be shortened and less vigorous if the air temperature is over 82°F (28° C), especially if the humidity is high. Physical activity in hot weather should be increased gradually. Limit the amount of time your child spends in a hot tub to 15 minutes. Encourage her to have a friend with her in case either of them should have a heat reaction. Children who have fevers or have just exercised vigorously should not go into hot tubs or saunas. Their bodies need to release heat instead of getting hotter.
  • Protect infants with fevers from heat stroke by not bundling them in blankets or too much clothing.
  • Never leave children alone in parked cars.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-15
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
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 ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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