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Heat Exhaustion in Children: Care Instructions


Heat exhaustion occurs when your child is hot, sweats a lot, and does not drink enough to replace the lost fluids. Heat exhaustion is not the same as heatstroke, which is much more serious. Heatstroke can lead to problems with many different organs and can be life-threatening.

After medical care for heat exhaustion, limit activity while your child recovers.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Limit your child's activities, and make sure your child gets plenty of rest. Your doctor will give you instructions on when your child can resume a normal schedule.
  • Have your child stay in a cool room for at least the next 24 hours.
  • To replace fluids, give your child rehydration drinks and juices that your doctor recommends. Drinks such as sports drinks that contain electrolytes work best, because they have salt and minerals. Your child needs salt and minerals as well as water.

To prevent heat exhaustion

  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids.
  • Have your child drink plenty of water before, during, and after physical activity. This is very important when it is hot out and when your child does intense exercise or sports.
  • During hot weather, have your child wear light-coloured clothing that fits loosely and a hat with a brim to reflect the sun.
  • Have your child limit or avoid strenuous activity during hot or humid weather, especially during the hottest part of the day (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are more likely to develop when your child is active in hot weather. Humidity makes hot weather even more dangerous.
  • Cars can get very hot inside. Open the windows or turn on the air conditioning before your child gets in.
  • Try to keep your child cool during hot weather. If your home is not air-conditioned, seek an air-conditioned place. That could be in the library, a neighbourhood cafe or a friend's home.
  • Spray your child with a cool mist. Give your child a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
  • Be aware that some medicines can raise the risk of heat exhaustion. Ask your doctor whether any medicine your child takes raises the chance of getting heat exhaustion.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child feels very hot and:
    • Has a seizure.
    • Appears to be confused.
    • Has skin that is red, hot, and dry.
    • Passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child cannot keep fluids down.
  • After returning to normal activities, your child has symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as sweating a lot, fatigue, dizziness, or nausea.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.