Understand the Symptoms of Serious Heat Distress

“Heatstroke or Sunstroke is a very serious condition. All parents should understand the symptoms and take measures to prevent it.”
COPA Nurse Denise
Nurse Advice Line

The weather is reaching records temps this week. In that context we want to share information on a few types of reactions to heat that parents need to be aware of and how to respond. Prevention is always the key, as well as knowing how to cool down. But, do you know when to call Nurse Advice at COPA and when should you call 911?


Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms include pale skin; usually no fever but  temps can be temporarily elevated between 100 – 102 F.  Your child can have profuse sweating with nausea, weakness, dizziness, listlessness, or in serious situations they can faint. Lie your child down in a cool place and elevate the feet. Undress the child except for their underwear and sponge the entire body constantly with very cool water while giving water. After your child has had 2-3 glasses of water, offer some salty foods such as potato chips or pretzels. Because a child can progress from heat exhaustion to heat stroke, all children with severe symptoms (see below) need to be examined immediately. Patients with mild symptoms like dizziness or fever but do not respond to cooling measures, fluid replacement and rest also need to be seen quickly.

Heatstroke or Sunstroke:  With heatstroke or sunstroke the child will have a fever above 105 F. The skin is hot and flushed and about 50% of kids have no sweating. They may be confused or go unconscious (faint) or into shock. You need to call 911. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency.

Heat Cramps: Kids can have severe cramping especially of the calf or thigh muscles and abdomen. There is no fever. Once you give fluids and cool your child down, the symptoms usually go away in a few hours.. All these reactions are caused by exposure to high temperatures often with high humidity. Exercising or other vigorous activity during hot weather often causes heat production to exceed heat loss. Dehydration interferes with sweating and increases the risk of heat reactions so it is very important to push extra fluids when it is hot and the kids are exercising. Make sure your child drinks liquids before, during and after exercise.


It’s easy to prevent heat-associated illness by using some good old fashioned common sense. Dress your child in loose fitting, light weight clothing that covers the skin’s exposure to the sun, and wear a wide brimmed hat. Stay hydrated at all times and in the shade during the hottest part of the day. Don’t linger in direct sun when temps are high and always have a place to cool down. Prepare for hot days by bringing along plenty of water with cloths to wet down the face and arms. Inside a home without air conditioning can also heat up to 90 degrees and feel stifling. In Central Oregon’s dry climate, a good fan with some cold water can keep one cool until the sun goes down. Feel free to pour some ice cold water, splash some on your face and let the fan blow! Watch the kids for signs of overheating when playing inside and help them cool down. And, of course, NEVER leave your child in your car without your supervision for any reason.

TAKE ACTION Take care to watch your child for signs of heat distress and be prepared to act. COPA families can always call our 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 541-389-6313. If your child is in severe stress as described above, call 911. We want you to stay cool and hydrated so that you can enjoy our glorious summer in Central Oregon. As always, take care! Nurse Denise COPA Nurse Advice