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Everything you must know about heat stroke in children

Todo lo que debes saber sobre los golpes de calor en niños


Many of the victims of hyperthermia are between 0 and 5 years old. Due to a child's lower water reserve, their body temperature raises 3 to 5 times faster than that of an adult. In addition, children's developing respiratory tract makes them more vulnerable to heat stress. Preventing children from suffering from heat stroke is possible by taking a number of precautionary measures. Here we address everything you need to know both to prevent it from happening and to know what to do to help a child with thermal shock. 

First of all, it doesn't have to be summer to suffer heat stroke. With temperatures of just over 20°C, inside a car it can reach up to 50°C. As stated in the report 'Children in cars and childhood heat stroke', drawn up by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics and Fundación MAPFRE, it only takes 10 minutes in a car with an outside temperature of 25 ºC for a child to suffer heat stroke. Never leaving them alone in a vehicle is essential to prevent this from happening, as well as constantly hydrating them or preventing them from exercising during the hottest and sunniest times of the day. 

A heat stroke or thermal shock is one of the most serious cases of hyperthermia. This occurs when the body overheats due to high temperatures or physical overexertion. A lack of hydration causes some organs to stop functioning correctly and can even lead to death. Children under 4 years of age and especially children under 1 year of age are more prone to suffer. Other influencing factors are chronic diseases such as renal, neurological, endocrine (e.g. diabetes) or heart disease; or the use of certain medications, such as diuretics or antihistamines, which can interfere with the regulation of body temperature and body fluids.

What symptoms does a heat stroke cause? Firstly, a rise in body temperature above 40°C (fever or hyperthermia), alterations in consciousness and possible convulsions, and unlike sunstroke, dry and very hot skin. It can also cause fatigue and weakness, dizziness, nausea and even vomiting. Muscle cramps, severe headache and confusion, shallow and rapid breathing, tachycardia (very fast heart rate) and weak pulse may also occur. 


-Keep a close eye on young children, especially those under the age of one, on people suffering from chronic diseases that make sweating difficult (e.g. cystic fibrosis), or those taking certain medications such as antihistamines.

-Keep hydrated. Don´t wait for your child to ask for water. Offer them liquid regularly. If they are still breastfeeding, they should be fed more often.

-Avoid physical exercise or playing at the hottest and sunniest times of the day. For outdoor physical activity in hot weather, drink small amounts every 15-30 minutes while doing the exercise.

-Use loose-fitting, light-weight and breathable pale colored clothing and protect the child's heads with a cap. Bath them and wet their bodies frequently.

-Avoid long exposures to the sun and high temperatures by keeping children in shaded, well-ventilated or air-conditioned places.

-Never leave a child alone or stay with a child in a parked and locked vehicle. There are currently a range devices on the market that warn us if this happens, making it impossible to forget a child inside the car. 

Here are some more tips to help children avoid heat stroke, especially when they are in the car.


What should you do if you see a child alone in a vehicle? The first thing to do is to check that the child responds to the signals, and immediately call 112.

We must then open the car, always keeping the child's safety in mind. It is advisable to break the glass of the furthest window and take the child out. 

In this article we discuss how to act if your child is suffering from heat stroke. It all depends on whether he/she is conscious or not, but the most important thing is to get him/her medical attention as soon as possible. 

In this infographic we look at how to avoid forgetting a child in the car and preventing him/her from suffering heat stroke:




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