Published: Friday 28 May 2021

With warmer weather - upon us, it pays to be aware of the symptoms of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion is more common and, thankfully, not serious. However, if it develops into heat stroke it can be dangerous and needs to be treated immediately. It’s useful to familiarise yourself with the differences between the two in case you believe a child in your care may have either heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

How do I know if my child is suffering from heat exhaustion?

Look out for one or more of these symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • fast breathing
  • increased pulse
  • excessive sweating and clamminess
  • pale skin
  • headache
  • dizziness and confusion
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling sick
  • extreme thirst
  • cramping in arms, legs and stomach
  • a temperature of 38C or above

In children it’s also likely that they will become drowsy and floppy.

What should I do if I think someone has heat exhaustion?

If you believe someone has heat exhaustion you should try to cool them down. First off, move them into a cool place, like some shade. Next, make them lie down with their feet slightly raised. They should also drink lots water. You should also try to cool their skin. This can be done with a sponge, or perhaps a spray, and also fan them. If you have access to cold packs, these can be placed in the armpits or around the next.

Always stay with them until they’re feeling better. They should start to cool down within around half an hour.

How do I know if it’s heat stroke?

If the patient displays one or more of these symptoms they may have heat stroke:

  • isn’t feeling better after 30 minutes
  • their temperature is 40C or above
  • they are feeling hot and dry but not sweating
  • is short of breath or breathing rapidly
  • loses consciousness
  • becomes confused
  • has a seizure
  • is unresponsive

You should call 999 immediately. If they lose consciousness, put them into the recovery position.

How do I prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Hot weather and exercise heighten the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. In each of these situations be sure to:

  • keep out of the sun at its strongest time (between 11am and 3pm)
  • drink lots of cold drinks
  • don’t take part in extreme exercise
  • if possible, have cool baths and showers
  • wear loose, light-coloured clothing

Want to brush up on your first aid skills, either as a childcare professional or a parent/carer? We run regular Paediatric First Aid courses for childcare professionals, or Baby and Child First Aid courses suitable for parents, grandparents, other family members and carers. Our courses take place in Brighton & Hove, Angmering or in a venue of your choice. We look forward to seeing you on a course soon!

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