First Aid: Heat Illness

First Aid

Heat exhaustion starts slowly, but if it's not quickly treated it can progress to heatstroke. In heatstroke, a person's temperature reaches 105°F (40.5°C) or higher. Heatstroke requires immediate emergency medical care and can be life-threatening.

Signs and Symptoms

Of heat exhaustion:

  • increased thirst
  • weakness and extreme tiredness
  • fainting
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • irritability
  • headache
  • increased sweating
  • cool, clammy skin
  • body temperature rises, but to less than 105°F (40.5°C)

Of heatstroke:

  • severe headache
  • weakness, dizziness
  • confusion
  • fast breathing and heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • seizures
  • little or no sweating
  • flushed, hot, dry skin
  • body temperature rises to 105°F (40.5°C) or higher

What to Do

If your child has symptoms of heatstroke, get emergency medical care immediately.

For cases of heat exhaustion or while awaiting help for a child with possible heatstroke:

  • Bring the child indoors or into the shade immediately.
  • Undress the child.
  • Have the child lie down; raise the feet slightly.
  • If the child is alert, place in a lukewarm bath or spray with lukewarm water. 
  • If the child is alert and coherent, give frequent sips of cool, clear fluids.
  • If the child is vomiting, turn onto his or her side to prevent choking.

Think Prevention!

  • Teach kids to always drink plenty of liquids before and during any activity in hot, sunny weather — even if they aren't thirsty.
  • Make sure kids wear light-colored, loose clothing in warm weather.
  • Remind kids to look for shaded areas and rest often while outside.
  • Don't let kids participate in heavy activity outdoors during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Teach kids to come indoors immediately whenever they feel overheated.

Related Resources

  • National Safety Council
    The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.
  • Children's Safety Network
    Made up of several resource centers funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Children's Safety Network works to reduce injuries and prevent violence for children and adolescents.
  • AAP Pediatric Referral Department
    Use this website to find a pediatrician in your area or to find general health information for parents from birth through age 21.