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Heat stroke, dehydration and young children

Heat stroke and dehydration are potentially life-threatening conditions, particularly for young children. Kids can't control their temperature as well as we can, and so are extra sensitive to heat.

To reduce the risk of heat stroke, help your baby to drink more when it's hot outside.

You can also breastfeed more often during hotter times of the year. A handy way to check your baby's temperature is to feel their neck with a finger. If your child feels warm but not too hot, all is well.

Further reading:
Sun protection for babies 
Travelling with young children 
Holidaying with kids: the secret to success


Never park your pram in direct sunlight
On hot and sunny days, dress your child in light clothes and ensure that you stay mostly in the shade. Young kids should never be in direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day. If your child is sleeping in the pram, never leave the pram in the sun.

This can be life-threatening: it can get enormously hot under the pram hood, especially if you've covered it with a cloth. Leave the pram in the shade and make sure any cloth doesn't cover the whole opening.

Fluids are important
Anyone can get heat stroke if the body's internal thermostat isn't working. This tends to happen when it's really hot outside and the humidity index is high. Dehydration occurs when the body's fluid balance is too low.

Babies and young children can easily get dehydrated, partly because their bodies are so small and contain less fluid than our own, and partly because they don't always tell you when they're thirsty and need a drink. With young children, you need to offer them a drink and watch to make sure they actually drink it. Take note if your child is weeing less than usual – this is a sign they haven't drunk enough fluid.

Symptoms of heat stroke
• Body temperature of over 40 °C
• Dizziness, irritation and confusion
• A fast pulse
• Flushed, dry skin
• Headache
Nausea and vomiting
• Vision problems

Care and treatment of heat stroke in babies and young children
Seek medical attention as quickly as possible if you think your child has heat stroke. You should always take your child somewhere cool and help them to cool down, e.g. with a wet towel. In Europe you can always call 112 in an emergency.
Symptoms of dehydration
People who haven't drunk enough fluids may feel exhausted and lose consciousness. Other symptoms include:
• A dry mouth
• Headache
• Dizziness
• Tiredness

Care and treatment of dehydration in babies and young children
If you think your child is dehydrated, make sure they drink something straight away. Seek medical attention immediately if your child is severely dehydrated. They will be given fluid in the form of a drip to restore their fluid balance.
Seek help immediately at a health clinic or A&E if
• A small child is weeing only a little or nothing at all and is listless.
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