Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are potentially serious conditions that can occur during warmer weather. Babies and young children are particularly at risk. Here’s how to spot and treat the early symptoms.

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is caused by a combination of exposure to heat and dehydration. It occurs when levels of water and salt levels in the body start to drop.

The earliest signs of heat exhaustion is a body temperature of 37-40°C (98.6-104°F). Other indications include faintness, sweaty and clammy pale skin, shallow breathing and a weakened pulse.

Treat heat exhaustion by:

  • Moving your baby to somewhere cool
  • Take off any extra or unnecessary clothing
  • Breastfeed/bottle-feed, or offer cooled boiled water to bottle fed babies
  • Cool them down using a sponge or spray with lukewarm water
  • Once they have recovered, avoiding taking them outside for the rest of the day and take extra precautions in the future.

If, after 30 minutes, their condition doesn’t improve or it gets worse, seek medical help immediately as they may be suffering from heatstroke.

If their conditions seems to have improved but you are still worried, call your GP or NHS 111 for further advice.

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a potentially life-threatening condition that is caused by extreme overheating. Babies and young children are more susceptible than adults as they are less able to regulate their own body temperature. Left untreated, heatstroke can result in seizures, loss of consciousness, organ failure, brain damage and death.

Just a few minutes in a hot place can be enough to cause heatstroke in small children. Check on them regularly to ensure they aren’t overheating. Don’t use a blanket or muslin to cover your baby’s pram and never leave a child in a hot car.

Heatstroke symptoms include:

  • A body temperature above 40°C (104°F)
  • Hot skin
  • Dry skin – no sweating

If you suspect that your child is suffering from heatstroke, call 999 and continue to try and cool their temperature using the methods above until help arrives.

Here are some more tips for keeping babies cool during hot weather.