How to prevent heat exhaustion

The official start to summer is coming soon; however, the temperatures and humidity levels already have arrived. As we brace for heat waves during the summer, medical experts encourage parents to heed the warning and know the signs of heat exhaustion.

“Heat exhaustion and heat-related illnesses can be detrimental in children,” said Sandra M. Herr, M.D., medical director of the emergency department at Norton Children’s Hospital and pediatric emergency medicine physician with Norton Children’s Emergency Medicine, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “If untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which requires immediate medical attention and could be fatal.”

Although everyone is at risk for overdoing it in the heat, Dr. Herr points out some kids are more sensitive, including infants; kids with eczema and other skin conditions; those with heart, lung and kidney conditions; and children taking certain medications, such as heart and blood pressure medications.

Learn the signs of heat exhaustion

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Weakness
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Increased sweating
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Elevation of body temperature (but less than 105 degrees Fahrenheit)

“The best way to avoid heat exhaustion is to purposefully prevent it,” Dr. Herr said. “Be very strategic about the amount of time your children spend outdoors, especially during the extreme heat of the day.”

Signs of heatstroke

According to Dr. Herr, it’s important to know that heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke if untreated. Symptoms of heatstroke can include seizures and a loss of consciousness. It also can lead to death.

How to prevent heat exhaustion

  • Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water before, during and after activities
  • Wearing light-colored, loose clothing
  • Staying inside during the hottest hours of the day, typically 10 a.m. through 2 p.m.
  • Taking frequent breaks indoors

Norton Children’s Medical Associates

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As a reminder, it is never OK to leave infants or children in the car even in moderately warm temperatures. The temperature inside a vehicle can increase by 20 degrees within 10 minutes.

“If you are spending time outside with the kids, be sure to take frequent breaks and rest in the shade or even head indoors to the comfort of air conditioning,” Dr. Herr said. “Have water readily available and encourage everyone to drink up.”

Consider taking these hot and humid days as an opportunity to focus on indoor activities, such as a trip to the local library or catching up on movies at home.


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