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Health Tips for Parents


Health Tips for Parents

2010 Issues

How Can I Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses?


Allowing your child to acclimate to the changing temperature, drink fluids regularly, and wear proper clothes while playing in the sun can help prevent heat-related illnesses.

HT-May2010-BoyDrinkingWaterHeat-related illness occurs when the body is exposed to heat and humidity without adequate opportunities for cooling and/or fluid intake. “Since sweating is one of the body’s normal cooling mechanisms to help adjust to the heat, children, who sweat less than adults, are more at risk for heat-related illnesses,” according to John DiFiori, M.D., UCLA sports medicine physician. “Children with chronic health problems, such as diabetes or cystic fibrosis, or developmental delays may have difficulty maintaining hydration and should consult their physician before participating in sports.”

Types and Symptoms

  • Heat cramps — painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur in the legs, arms or abdomen - Heat exhaustion — elevated body temperature with rectal temperature below 104 degrees Fahrenheit, signs of dizziness, weakness, headache and nausea Heat stroke — life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical assistance. Rectal temperatures of more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, loss of balance, vomiting, confusion and fainting 


Make sure your child drinks water or a sports drink before and during exercise, wears lightweight and light-colored clothing, applies sunscreen, and gets adequate rest breaks in the shade. Parents should also schedule games during cooler times of the day, modify the activities according to weather conditions and make sure children are adequately acclimated to the change in temperature.

“Identifying climatic conditions is important,” notes Dr. DiFiori. “Parents should assess risk for heat illness according to the heat index.” Since high humidity reduces the body’s ability to get rid of excess heat by sweating, high humidity combined with high temperatures and direct sunlight will increase the risk for heat-related illnesses.

Pay Attention to Symptoms

“It is important to be aware of the symptoms of heat illness so that these conditions can be recognized and treated quickly,” advises Dr. DiFiori. “When the activities are scheduled and modified depending upon the weather conditions and children are prepared, the incidence of heat-related illnesses can be significantly reduced.”

Steps to take when a child is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion or stroke:

  • Call 911 for immediate medical assistance
  • Get the child to a shady area, away from direct sunlight
  • Remove hot or wet clothing
  • Cool the child with wet towel, fan and/or ice packs under arm pits, neck and groin
  • Monitor body temperature and continue cooling methods
  • Perform CPR if needed

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

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