Recognizing Signs And Symptoms Of Heat Illness In Toddlers

Posted by Gena Sayers on July 20, 2015

Our bodies are designed to cool themselves to a certain point with sweating and allowing heat to radiate forth. In extremely hot conditions however the body's abilities to cool slow down, and heat illness is possible. In some cases, toddlers may not sweat like their adult counterparts, as we experienced with my youngest brother when he was a tot. His face got red, there was a white ring around his mouth, and before we realized it he was moving into heat exhaustion. Once we recognized the symptoms we were able to go into action and cool him down before it reached the danger zone.

Heat cramps, felt in the arms, legs, and abdomen, come from excessive sweating and not enough water to replace the fluids lost in sweating. Heat cramps are the first sign, and if recognized immediately heat illness can be prevented. If your toddler is complaining about pains in their arms, legs, or belly, then it is time to get them to a cool place and give them something to drink with salt and sugar, like sports drinks. This should ease your child’s discomfort quickly.

It can be easy to miss that sign if the child is not complaining about cramps. The next sign of heat illness is heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness, increased thirst, muscle cramps, fainting, nausea/vomiting, headache, irritability, increased sweating, cold or clammy skin, and increased body temperature (less than 104 degrees F).

In the case of heat exhaustion, get your toddler to a cooler place and remove excess clothing. Encourage your child to drink a sports drink or other fluid that will replace electrolytes. Use a cool wet cloth or cool water on your child’s skin. With my youngest brother we put him in a tub of cool water, and had to refill with cool water three times before his body temperature lowered back to normal. Get advice from a professional, some cases of exhaustion require IV fluid replacement.

Missing all of the above signs can lead to heat stroke, and this is what we are trying to avoid at all costs as heat stroke is a life threatening illness. The symptoms of heat stroke include severe headache, confusion, dizziness, nausea, rapid breathing/heart rate, loss of consciousness, seizure, lack of sweat, hot/dry skin, and a temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. You must call for emergency medical help in the case of heat stroke symptoms. While waiting for emergency services to arrive get your toddler to a cooler environment, shed the excess clothing, and try to cool the skin down with wet towels. DO NOT give fluids at this point unless your toddler is acting normal, awake, and alert.

Make certain your kiddos have plenty of water to drink and wear light colored, loose fitting clothing during these hot summer days. Teach your children to recognize their own signs and symptoms, and to get indoors or in the shade and rehydrate when the symptoms begin. The hottest time of the day in most places is between noon and six, so outdoor activities should be limited to before noon and after six in the evening to avoid heat illness. Summer does not have to be deadly, and prevention is the best cure for heat illness.