baby

How to spot the signs of heatstroke in babies and toddlers

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can occur if they get too hot

Andrea Caamano

Summer is finally here and with temperatures currently higher than 30 degrees in cities such as Brighton and London, babies and young children are at risk of developing heat-related illnesses. One common condition that can occur if a child gets too hot is heat exhaustion, and if it’s not spotted and treated early, there's a risk it could lead to heatstroke. This potentially serious and life-threatening condition can put a strain on their brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.

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These two illnesses can develop very quickly over a few minutes, or gradually over several hours or days. According to the Baby Center and NHS these are the signs to look out for when detecting heat exhaustion:

  • tiredness and weakness
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • hot, red and dry skin
  • a headache (which may cause irritability)
  • muscle cramps
  • vomiting
  • heavy sweating
  • intense thirst
  • a fast pulse
  • urinating less often and having much darker urine than usual

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If you notice that your child has signs of heat exhaustion, this is what you can do to help:

  • Lie them down in a cool place – such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade
  • Remove any unnecessary clothing
  • Talk to your baby reassuringly to keep him calm.
  • Cool their skin – you can use a cool, wet sponge or flannel
  • Fan their skin while it's moist – this will help the water to evaporate, which will help their skin cool down
  • Get them to drink fluids – breastmilk or formula or water if they are six months or older

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can often be prevented by taking sensible precautions when it's very hot. These include:

Keeping them out of the heat:

  • Keep your child out of the sun during peak hours.
  • Try to keep them in the shade, apply sunscreen and make sure they wear a hat
  • They should wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
  • Check that they are staying cool during car rides and never leave them alone in a parked car. Heat stroke can occur within minutes in a car, where the temperature quickly climbs much higher than the outside temperature.

Keeping them cool:

  • Give them more fluids than usual on hot days
  • Give them a cool bath
  • Keep them indoor if you can