Heat Exposure and Reactions

Disponible En Espanol


Definition:

  • Symptoms after being in high temperatures (such as heat waves)
  • Symptoms after hard work or sports during hot weather
  • Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are covered
  • Prevention of heat exposure symptoms also covered

Types of Heat Reactions

  • There are 3 main reactions to hot temperatures and heat waves.
  • Heatstroke or Sunstroke. Symptoms include hot, flushed skin with high fever over 105° F (40.5° C). A rectal temperature is more accurate than an oral temperature in these cases. 50% of children with heatstroke do not sweat. Heatstroke can cause confusion, coma or shock. Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency. It has a high death rate if not treated promptly.
  • Heat Exhaustion. Symptoms include pale skin, profuse sweating and nausea. Dizziness, fainting, or weakness can also be signs. Can have a mild fever 100 - 102° F (37.8 - 39° C) for a short time. Most of the time, there is no fever. Most of these symptoms are caused by dehydration from sweating. A person can progress from heat exhaustion to heatstroke. So, all patients with severe symptoms (such as fainting) need to be seen now. Mild symptoms (such as dizziness) can be treated at home with fluids and rest. But, if these don't resolve with treatment, these children also need to be seen.
  • Heat Cramps. Severe muscle cramps in the legs (calf or thigh muscles) and stomach are present. No fever. Tightness or spasms of the hands may occur.
  • After your child drinks fluids and cools down, he or she will feel better. All symptoms should go away in a few hours.

Causes

  • All 3 reactions are caused by exposure to high temperatures often with high humidity.
  • During hot weather, hard work or sports can cause heat production to exceed heat loss.
  • Poor hydration interferes with sweating and increases the risk of heat reactions.
  • Babies are at more risk because they are less able to sweat when hot.
  • A hot humid climate can also add risk if you aren't used to it. This happens on vacations. The first heat wave of the summer can cause similar problems. It takes 8 to 10 days for you to become used to high summer temperatures.
  • Heatstroke is a breakdown in how the body regulates temperature. It usually follows exposure to a very high temperature. Examples are being inside a hot car or in a steam tent. Being indoors without air-conditioning during heat waves is also a risk factor.  

Disclaimer

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

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