Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Summer’s here which means it’s a great time for kids to get outside and play, but the heat can also take a serious toll on little bodies when we aren’t careful. Heat exhaustion is one of the most common conditions kids experience in the summer. A child’s body surface makes up a greater proportion of their overall weight than an adult’s, which puts them at greater risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Severe thirst
  • Nausea
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Cool, clammy skin

If your child is experiencing these symptoms you should immediately bring them to a cooler place, remove any excess clothing, encourage them to drink cool fluids and call your doctor for advice.

You can prevent heat exhaustion by being proactive about keeping your child hydrated. Make sure they drink cool water early and often. If they’re going out to play or to a sports practice make sure they’re fully hydrated before leaving and then make sure they take regular breaks to drink – even if they aren’t thirsty.

Heat exhaustion starts slowly but if it’s not identified and treated quickly it can progress into heat stroke.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Pounding headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Cramps or muscle weakness
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

Heat stroke is very serious and is considered a medical emergency. If you think someone has heat stroke, call 911 immediately. While you wait for medics to arrive you can try and cool the person down by moving them to a shady or cool area, fanning them and cooling down their skin with water.

By David AAfzal, Davidfzal, DO, a family medicine physician with Anne Arundel Medical Group (AAMG) Waugh Chapel Family Medicine. To find an AAMG doctor in your area, visit
Originally published May 29, 2015. Last updated July 6, 2020.

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