While it's much easier to get your kid out the door in the summer than the winter (multiple layers of outerwear, boots, and mittens vs. flip flips and a t-shirt), the heat can be just as potentially dangerous to children as the cold. Frostbite is off the table, sure, but it's surprisingly easy for kids to develop such warm weather complications as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke. But what are the signs that your child is overheated? You might think you'd be able to tell right away, but the symptoms can be surprisingly easy to miss.
For one thing, you can't always use the way you're feeling as a measuring stick for how hot your kid might be. "Because of their unique physiology, children are more susceptible to temperature extremes and their health effects," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Children are less able to regulate their body temperature compared with adults. As a result, children are more likely to develop significant health effects when they are exposed to environmental temperature extremes."
So while you might be feeling a little extra sweaty or sluggish, your kid might be experiencing more severe symptoms — and you might not even know it. (Also, just because you're not out in the blazing sun doesn't mean your kid is in the clear: Children can overheat indoors, too, if it's hot enough.) Here are the signs to watch out for the next time a heat wave hits.
Of course nobody feels like doing jumping jacks when it's hot enough to fry a proverbial egg on the sidewalk, but if your kid is unusually weak, tired, dizzy, and unwilling to move around, this could be a sign of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, warned the Johns Hopkins Medicine website. "Try to spend as much time indoors as possible on very hot and humid days" to prevent this from happening, and when you do go out, try increasing the time your child spends outdoors gradually to get her body used to the heat.
2. Dry Lips & Tongue
Because extreme heat leads to dehydration in kids (and everybody else), it's super important to watch for indications that your kid might be low on fluids. In addition to fatigue and lethargy, early signs of dehydration include dry lips and tongue, according to WebMD, as well as extreme thirst.
"If kids wait to drink until they feel thirsty, they're already dehydrated," the website explained. "Thirst doesn't really kick in until a child has lost 2% of his or her body weight in sweat."
If it's hot out, make sure your child drinks as much as possible (even if she doesn't think she's thirsty).
3. Nausea And/Or Vomiting
Feeling queasy when it's incredibly hot and humid out is something even adults can experience, but nausea and vomiting in kids who are overheated can indicate heat exhaustion or heat stroke (a more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention), according to Children's Hospital Chicago. Call the doctor if your child is sick to her stomach from the heat just in case.
As if your little one wasn't already feeling way too hot, both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can cause kids to develop fevers, as an article in Parents explained. Heat exhaustion can cause temperatures under 105 degrees F, while heat stroke can lead to fevers of 105 degrees F or higher. Another key difference: With heat exhaustion, there may be excessive sweating; with heat stroke, the skin will be hot but dry to the touch. This is a sign that your child's body has lost the ability to cool itself off and warrants a 911 call.
5. Muscle Cramps
Another manifestation of dehydration, severe muscle cramps in the legs and stomach without the presence of a fever could be what's known as heat cramps, according to Seattle Children's Hospital. Heat cramps aren't as potentially dangerous a condition as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, but they're still unpleasant. (Luckily, with fluids and rest they should disappear within a few hours.)