Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke in Kids

As the summer months are approaching, there’s one thing most of us are dreading — the heat. Austin averages 16 days a year when temperatures reach 100 °F or more. Heatwaves with temperatures in the 100s typically occur anytime from June to September. With the monthly average high ranging from 92°F-97°F, it’s important to know the various kinds of heat illnesses, and how to prevent heat cramps, heat exhaustion & heat stroke in kids.

Heat Illness Heat Exhaustion Heat Stroke Heat Cramps

Let’s start with prevention.

How to Prevent Heat Illness:

Protect kids from heat illness by doing the following:

  • Teach children to drink plenty of fluids before and during activity in hot, sunny weather — even if they’re not thirsty.
  • Dress children in light-colored, loose clothing.
  • Always apply sunscreen when outdoors — even on cloudy days.
  • On hot and/or humid days, schedule any heavy outdoor activity before noon and after 6 p.m.
  • Teach kids to come indoors, rest, and hydrate immediately whenever they feel overheated.
  • Read about the various forms of heat illnesses, and what to do if your child has symptoms.

Heat Cramps

What are heat cramps?

They are brief, painful muscle cramps in the legs, arms, or abdomen. Heat cramps may occur during or after exercise in extreme heat.

How are Heat Cramps caused?

When you sweat during intense physical activity, your body loses salts and fluids, which causes a low level of salt. The cramp is caused by the low level of salts.

Who is at risk?

Kids are particularly at risk for heat cramps when they aren’t drinking enough fluids.

Although painful, heat cramps on their own aren’t serious. However, cramps can be the first sign of more serious heat illness, so they should be treated right away to help avoid any problems.

What should I do if my child gets heat cramps?

Put your child in a cool place to rest, and have them drink fluids. If possible, give fluids that contain salt and sugar, such as sports drinks. Gently stretching and massaging cramped muscles also may help.

Heat Exhaustion

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness that can occur when someone in a hot environment, and they haven’t been drinking enough fluids.

What are symptoms of heat exhaustion?

Symptoms include:

  • increased thirst
  • weakness
  • fainting
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • irritability
  • headache
  • increase sweating
  • cool, clammy skin
  • elevation of body temperature, but less than 104°F (40°C)

What should I do if a child gets heat exhaustion?

  • Bring the child to a cooler place indoors, an air-conditioned car, or shady area.
  • Remove your child’s excess clothing.
  • Encourage the child to drink cool fluids containing salt and sugar, such as sports drinks.
  • Put a cool, wet cloth or cool water on your child’s skin.
  • Call your doctor for advice.
  • If your child is too exhausted or ill to drink, treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary.

If left untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke, which can be fatal.


What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke is the most severe form of heat illness. Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency.

In heatstroke, the body cannot regulate its own temperature. Body temperature can soar to 106°F (41.1°C) or even higher, leading to brain damage or even death if it isn’t quickly treated. Prompt medical treatment is required to bring the body temperature under control.

What causes heatstroke?

Factors that increase the risk for heatstroke include overdressing and extreme physical activity in hot weather with inadequate fluid intake.

Heatstroke also can happen when a child is left in a car on a hot day. When the outside temperature is 93°F (33.9°C), the temperature inside a car can reach 125°F (51.7°C).  Within 20 minutes, the internal body temperature can soar to dangerous levels.

What to do if someone has heatstroke?

Call for emergency medical help if your child has been outside in extreme temperatures, or another hot environment and shows one or more of these symptoms of heatstroke:

  • severe headache
  • weakness, dizziness
  • confusion
  • nausea
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizure
  • no sweating
  • flushed, hot, dry skin
  • temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher

While waiting for help:

  • Get your child indoors or into the shade.
  • Undress your child and sponge or douse him or her with cool water.
  • Do not give fluids unless your child is awake, alert, and acting normally.


About Five Star ER

Five Star ER is a freestanding Emergency Room that provides excellent 24 hour care. We are located in South Austin, Pflugerville and Dripping Springs.



This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Moreover, of you have medical questions, seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider. Never disregard professional medical advice. Don’t delay medical treatment because of something you have read on the internet. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911, or go to your nearest ER immediately.  

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