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Baby and Toddler Health A-Z: Heat Stroke

The warm weather may be a welcome change, but keep an eye on your baby or toddler to make sure they’re hydrated and protected

What is heat stroke?

So, there are two heat-related conditions to be aware of – heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
‘Both are caused by your toddler getting too hot and becoming dehydrated, which can involve the sun but doesn’t always,’ explains consultant paediatrician Dr Rahul Chodhari from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. ‘Heat stroke develops from heat exhaustion.'

And little ones are more vulnerable for several reasons.

‘Babies have a larger surface area in relation to their size, which means they lose water faster,’ says Dr Chodhari. ‘Their skin is thinner so they can’t regulate their own body temperature in the same way adults can, and of course young children can’t (or don’t) always tell you when they’re thirsty.’

What are the symptoms?

A baby or toddler with heat exhaustion could be sick, very sweaty, faint and breathing quickly.

‘Babies have a larger surface area in relation to their size, which means they lose water faster’ 

‘Then if this develops into heat stroke, signs include dry skin and tongue, confusion, difficulty settling, and even muscle cramps which may cause your toddler to cry or lie very still,’ says Dr Chodhari.

What can you do?

If you spot signs of heat exhaustion or stroke in your child, you should take her to hospital to get checked over and possibly treated. If she shows signs of confusion or any sort of seizure, phone 999 straight away.

‘Also move your baby or toddler into a cooler area with fans, air conditioning or open windows, give her water if she can drink, and shower the skin with cooler water,’ advises Dr Chodhari.

And, as with most conditions, prevention is the most important thing. Be aware of staying out of the sun and applying cream designed for kids, as well as keeping rooms as cool as possible.

This is especially important to think about if you’re abroad (it takes time to get used to a new temperature) or if your child’s had a chest infection or tummy bug.

‘Dress your little one in loose clothing, keep her hydrated with small, regular sips, give foods with a high water content such as cucumber and watermelon, and sprinkle cool water on her skin,’ says Dr Chodhari. ‘Appliances – especially halogen lamps – also generate a lot of heat, so turn them off where you can.’

How do you protect your child in the heat? Let us know on the comments board below.

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