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Protecting Children from Extreme Heat: Information for Parents

Protecting Children from Extreme Heat: Information for Parents Protecting Children from Extreme Heat: Information for Parents

Extreme heat is increasing in many regions of the United States due to climate change. High temperatures can cause children to become sick in several ways. Make sure to protect your child from the heat as much as possible, watch for symptoms, and call your pediatrician if you see any develop.

Prevent the effects of extreme heat

When weather conditions do not pose a safety or individual health risk, children can and should play outdoors. A heat index at or above 90°F, as identified by the National Weather Service, poses a significant health risk. However, there are several steps you can take to beat the heat and protect your child from heat-related illness:

  • Find an air-conditioned space. If your home does not have air-conditioning, find a nearby building that does. Libraries can be a great place for a cool retreat from the heat. If you live in a place where the air-conditioning is unpredictable, plan in advance for a safe place for you and your family to go during times when the temperatures are high.

  • Stay hydrated. Encourage your children to drink water regularly and have it readily available—even before they ask for it. On hot days, infants receiving breast milk in a bottle can be given additional breast milk in a bottle, but they should not be given water—especially in the first six months of life. Infants receiving formula can be given additional formula in a bottle. See Signs of Dehydration in Infants & Children.

  • Dress lightly. Dress your children in clothing that is light-colored, lightweight, and limited to one layer of absorbent material that will maximize the evaporation of sweat. Kids have a lower capacity for sweating than adults.

  • Plan for extra rest time. Heat can often make children (and their parents) feel tired.

  • Cool off. When your child is feeling hot, give them a cool bath or water mist to cool down. Swimming is another great way to cool off while staying active.

  • Prevent the effects of sun exposure. See Sun Safety: Information for Parents About Sunburn & Sunscreen.

  • Ask about policies. Talk to your child's caregiver, camp, coach or child care provider about their policies for protecting your children throughout the day—especially during outdoor play or exercise.

Hot car warning!

Never leave children in a car or in another closed motor vehicle. The temperature inside the car can quickly become much higher than the outside temperature—a car can heat up about 19 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and continue rising to temperatures that cause death. See Prevent Child Deaths in Hot Cars for more information.

Potential health effects of extreme heat

Extreme heat can make children sick in many ways, including:

  • Dehydration

  • Heat exhaustion

  • Heat cramps

  • Heat stroke

When to call your pediatrician

Call your pediatrician immediately if your child develops any of the following symptoms. Your pediatrician can advise you on the next best course of action and whether an immediate evaluation is needed.

  • Feeling faint

  • Extreme tiredness (e.g., unusually sleepy, drowsy, or hard to arouse)

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Intense thirst

  • Not urinating for many hours

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Breathing faster or deeper than normal

  • Skin numbness or tingling

  • Muscle aches

  • Muscle spasms

Psychological effects from the heat

Don't forget about your child's mental health, as well. Children may become anxious or restless from being kept indoors. Plan ahead for entertainment with indoor activities and games, and limit the amount of screen time.

More information

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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