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Prevent heat related illness - advice for babies and young children

Babies and young children are more susceptible to heat-related illness than adults because their bodies cannot easily adapt to changing temperatures. The younger the child, the quicker they will start to show signs of dehydration or heat stress.

Parents or carers need to be aware of weather conditions in which heat-related illness is likely and take precautionary measures.

If hot weather is predicted or present:

Stay hydrated and well nourished

  • Give children plenty of water, before they become thirsty. Avoid using ice
  • Do not give children drinks that cause dehydration - such as drinks high in sugar, salt and/or caffeine
  • If you are breastfeeding, feed your baby more often and drink plenty of water yourself
  • Give bottle-fed babies cool, boiled water between feeds
  • Give children small regular meals and minimise hot food
  • Monitor your child’s urine output:
    • babies - monitor the number of wet nappies. If your baby has fewer wet nappies than usual in a 24 hour period, see a doctor or ring 13 HEALTH for advice
    • young children - urine should be a light straw colour. Dark urine may be a sign of dehydration and indicate the need to drink. If you are concerned you should seek advice from your doctor

Stay cool

  • Dress children in loose fitting, single layered, cotton clothing
  • Keep children cool by giving them regular lukewarm baths or showers. Do not use ice cold water
  • Keep your home cool or go to cool areas, such as air conditioned buildings or shopping centres
  • Avoid taking your child outside between 10am - 3pm
  • Ensure you use a suitable sunshade on your baby's stroller
  • Ensure children wear broad-brimmed hats and SPF 30+ to avoid sunburn
  • Be aware of any pre-existing medical conditions, which may cause a child to be more heat-sensitive

Caring for children in heat

  • Children may experience nappy rash when it is hot - avoid using talcum powder, keep area clean and dry
  • Sick children need special attention in hot weather, even for minor illnesses such as a cold or hay fever

Never leave children unattended in hot cars.

Be alert for the early signs of heat stress:

  • rising body temperature
  • dry mouth and eyes
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • vomiting
  • absence of tears when crying.

Common symptoms of heat-related illnesses

This chart lists the most common symptoms of heat-related illness that can affect people. Please note that the presence of symptoms may vary from person to person.

Heat related illnessSymptomsFirst aid
Heat cramps 
  • profuse sweating
  • painful muscle cramps usually in legs and abdominal muscles
 
  • stop activity and sit quietly in a cool place
  • increase fluid intake
  • give child a lukewarm cool bath or shower
  • rest a few hours before returning to activity
  • stretch and gently massage affected muscles
  • seek medical help if cramps persist
Heat exhaustion 
  • pale complexion and profuse sweating
  • fatigue, weakness and restlessness
  • headache, dizziness
  • nausea, vomiting
  • weak rapid heart rate
  • breathing fast and shallow
  • muscle cramps, weakness
  • fainting
 
  • move child to a cool place, if possible an air conditioned area and remove excess clothing
  • To cool down the body try:
    -  lukewarm shower, bath or sponge bath
    -  place moist, cool cloths on forehead, wrists, sides of underarms and groin area, fan continuously
  • give small sips of cool water or diluted fruit juice or cordial (one part juice in four parts water)
  • if recovery is not prompt or vomiting occurs, seek emergency medical assistance
Heat stroke 

More severe and dangerous form of heat related illness.

  • confusion, poor coordination or slurred speech
  • hot, dry skin possibly not sweating
  • fast and shallow breaths
  • rapid pulse
  • extreme fatigue, headache, fainting
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • loss of consciousness
 

This is a medical emergency—call triple zero (000), then:

  • check child's airway, breathing and pulse - position child on their side and keep airway clear
  • seek urgent medical advice if ambulance delayed
  • if possible, move child to a cool place, lie them down and remove excess clothing. Most important treatment is to cool the child rapidly
  • place moist, cool cloths on forehead, wrists, sides of neck, underarms and groin area, fan continuously
  • give small sips of fluids if conscious and able to drink
  • do not give any medications unless they are prescribed by the doctor

Where to get help

For more information or support during heat event or a heatwave:

  • call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) at any time
  • contact your doctor, hospital or health clinic

In an emergency, call triple 000.

The following information may assist you:

The following information may assist you:

Last updated: 14 December 2015

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