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Information for Parents: Protecting Children from Extreme Heat

June 25, 2021

Stacey Winters, DO
Stacey Winters, DO
Willamette Valley Pediatrics
& Adolescent Medicine

A heat index at or above 90°F, as identified by the National Weather Service, poses a significant health risk.

  • 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—offer before they ask for it. Do not give babies under 6 months of age water. In the heat you can increase their breast milk or formula consumption to help avoid dehydration.
  • 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.
    • Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight.
    • For older than 6 months, use sunscreens labeled "broad-spectrum" with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 (up to SPF 50). Avoid sunscreens with the ingredient oxybenzone.

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.

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:

  • Feeling faint
  • Extreme tiredness (e.g., unusually sleepy, drowsy, or hard to arouse)
  • Headache
  • Fever (Temperature > 100.4 degrees F)
  • Intense thirst
  • Not urinating for many hours
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing faster or deeper than normal
  • Skin numbness or tingling
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle spasms

Source: Healthy Children by AAP