Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Your child's body can react when he is exposed to hot temperatures without drinking lots of fluids and resting.

  • Heat cramps are actually muscle spasms. Have your child rest in shade, drink lots of water slowly and stretch his muscles.
  • Heat exhaustion causes an upset stomach, weak muscles, dizziness and cool or pale skin. Have your child rest in the shade and drink lots of water slowly.
  • Heat stroke is an emergency. This occurs if heat exhaustion is ignored. Heat stroke causes hot and dry skin (no sweating), shallow breathing and a weak pulse. Get your child to a hospital right away. The hotter the temperatures and the higher the humidity, your child is at a higher risk for heat stroke.

How to prevent heat-related illness

During the summer, make sure your child:

  • dresses in loose-fitting, cool clothing
  • stays out of direct sunlight as much as possible
  • drinks plenty of water
  • takes breaks often when playing outside
  • stops playing outside when he gets tired

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or "she" and "him" or "her."
Reviewed By: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2016