Health conditions

Heat stress in older children and teenagers

Older children and teenagers face an increased risk of developing heat stress.

This is because they are generally smaller and weigh less than adults and absorb heat more rapidly in hot weather. Other factors that increase their risk of heat stress include:

  • their bodies adjust more slowly to rising temperatures than adults
  • when they are active, they produce more body heat than adults
  • they sweat less before puberty, making it harder for them to cool off
  • they can lose body fluid (water) quickly
  • chronic health problems, certain medications, recent illness resulting in diarrhoea and / or vomiting, or a previous instance of heat stress
  • obesity
  • wearing heavy clothing (for example, uniforms required for some sports).

Find out more about heat stress, including signs and symptoms.

Reduce the risk

These simple tips can reduce your child’s risk of developing heat stress.

Drinking

  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of water and fluids. Consider diluted juice (mixed with water) or low sugar sports drinks.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks (including energy drinks) as these can increase dehydration.
  • Ensure your child carries a bottle of water at all times when outside.

Clothing and protective items

  • Remind your child to
    • wear light-coloured, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing (with SPF in the fabric if possible)
    • wear sunglasses and a wide brim hat with neck protection
    • apply sunscreen (SPF 30+) and re-apply regularly, especially if in the water.
  • Encourage your child to carry a small backpack containing water, sunglasses, sunscreen and a small flannel to wet and cool themselves with.

Outdoor activities

  • Limit outdoor activities in extremely hot weather.
  • Make your child aware of the signs of heat stress and what they should do if they start to feel unwell, including:
    • stopping playing and moving to a cooler location to rest
    • drinking plenty of fluid
    • informing someone quickly, preferably an adult.

If your child plays sport

  • Inform the coach of any prior instances of heat stress, physical conditions or medications that may increase your child’s risk of heat stress.
  • Leave your emergency contact details with the coach.
  • Children and teenagers should not be encouraged or forced to continue playing sport or exercising if they appear distressed or complain of feeling unwell. They should also:
    • take a break every 15 – 30 minutes when exercising to drink and cool down
    • drink at least 500 to 700 mL every hour of cool water or a sports drink.
  • Some children may be at an increased risk of muscle cramps during outdoor activities. To help avoid this:
    • slowly get them used to the heat and humidity before they start to exercise
    • ensure they eat and drink properly.

Preventing and treating heat stress

Find out how to prevent and treat heat stress.

Where to get help

  • If you have severe symptoms, always dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance in a medical emergency
  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Remember

  • Older children and teenagers are at an increased risk of developing heat stress.
  • Reduce your child’s risk of experiencing heat stress – make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids, limits outdoor activities in the heat, and wears protective clothing when outside.

Acknowledgements
Disaster Preparedness Management Unit

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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