Heat stroke is a serious condition. Even if treated, heat stroke can be fatal. This makes it important to learn to avoid heat stroke and just as importantly, learn to recognize heat stroke symptoms.
Although we usually think of heat stroke as affecting athletes playing sports in the heat of the summer (exertional heat stroke), heat stroke can also affect younger kids, including infants and toddlers who are left in a hot car.
Either way, in heat stroke, the body's ability to regulate body temperature and get rid of excess heat by sweating and other mechanisms is overwhelmed.
Heat Stroke Symptoms
Heat stroke symptoms and signs can include:
- a body temperature above 103 F and which can be as high as 106 F(fever)
- red, hot, and dry skin (absence of sweating)
- fast, strong pulse
- throbbing headache
- confusion or other changes in behavior, such as becoming grouchy
Since heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency, if a child has heat stroke symptoms, it is important to call 911 for medical assistance. While waiting for an ambulance to arrive, first aid for heat stroke usually includes getting the child out of the sun, preferably to an air-conditioned area, and cool him by placing him a cool bath or shower, spraying him with cool water, or sponge him with cool water.
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
Heat exhaustion symptoms and signs are milder than heat stroke symptoms and can include:
- sweating heavily
- muscle cramps
- nausea or vomiting
- increased thirst
- cool and moist skin
- fast and weak pulse
- fast and shallow breathing
If untreated, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke.
First aid for heat exhaustion usually includes stopping physical activities, getting the child out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned area, giving him a cold drink (like cool water or a cold sports drink), and cooling him by placing him a cool bath or shower, spraying him with cool water, or sponge him with cool water.
CDC. Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety. Accessed June 2009.
Grubenhoff JA. Heat-Related Illness. CPEM - March 2007; 8(1); 59-64.