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Heat Problems for Kids


Jayanth Talluri, MD, is a family practitioner at Brush Family Medicine in Brush, Colo. He can be reached at (970) 842-6262.

Question: My kids are big into the fall sports seasons. How can I help them avoid any problems while practicing and playing?

Answer: Sports practices for the upcoming fall sports seasons have begun. 

Our bodies are normally cooled through sweating and radiating heat through our skin. Under certain circumstances, such as unusually high temperatures, high humidity, or vigorous exercise in hot weather, this natural cooling system may begin to fail, allowing internal heat to build up to dangerous levels. Here’s what parents should be aware of and what to do:  

Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are brief, severe cramps in the muscles of the legs, arms, or abdomen that may occur during or after vigorous exercise in extreme heat. The sweating that occurs with vigorous exercise causes the body to lose salts and fluids and the low level of salts causes the muscles to cramp.

Kids are particularly susceptible to heat cramps when they haven't been drinking enough fluids. Although painful, heat cramps aren't serious.

What to Do:
Most heat cramps don't require special treatment. A cool place, rest, and fluids should ease an athletes’ discomfort. Massaging cramped muscles may also help.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness that can occur when someone in a hot climate or environment hasn't been drinking enough fluids. Symptoms may include:

  • dehydration
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • clammy skin
  • headache
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
  • irritability

What to Do

  • Go indoors or into the shade.
  • Loosen or remove clothing.
  • Take a bath in cool (not cold) water.
  • Call your doctor for further advice.

If your child is too exhausted or ill to eat or drink, intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary.  If left untreated, heat exhaustion may escalate into heatstroke, which can be fatal. 

Page Last Modified: 03/29/2012
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