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24th Jun 2024

Everything you need to know about heat exhaustion in children

Niamh Ryan

With temperatures rising at home and abroad, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and causes of heat exhaustion

When heat exhaustion goes untreated it becomes heat stroke, which is a life-threatening condition.

How does it happen?

According to the HSE, heat exhaustion occurs when the body becomes too hot and is unable to cool down.

As children don’t sweat as much as adults, they have a harder time regulating body temperature and staying cool.

If children are wearing too many layers this can also cause overheating.

Similarly, if children are left in the car while the weather is hot, the internal temperature of the car can quickly rise.

Even if a window is left open, there is not enough air circulation for the child to cool down.

When all of this is paired with a lack of fluids, the body has difficulty cooling down.

What are the symptoms?

Children generally become tired and irritable when they have heat exhaustion, and may exhibit bad behaviour.

Other symptoms include weakness, body cramps, lack of appetite, headache, and a temperature of more than 38 degrees Celsius.

How to cool down

The HSE recommends bringing your child indoors immediately or into the shade.

Remove any unnecessary clothing and sponge their skin with cool water. Fans and air conditioning can also helpful in cooling them down as quickly as possible.

It’s also important to increase their fluid intake by giving them cold water.

Avoid any drinks with caffeine or high amounts of sugar as these will increase dehydration.

When to get help

The general rule of thumb is to allow 30 minutes for your child to cool down.

If after 30 minutes they are still showing symptoms, they will be at risk of heat stroke.

Further symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, shortness of breath, seizures, and loss of consciousness.

Children should be brought to the hospital immediately if they have symptoms of heat stroke.

If left untreated, heat stroke causes organ failure due to a high internal temperature.