Recognising and responding to heat related illness
The Sector > Provider > General News > Recognising and responding to heat related illness

Recognising and responding to heat related illness

by Freya Lucas

February 14, 2024

The warmer summer months can be an especially vulnerable time for babies and young children, with increased prevalence of heat related illnesses. 


NSW Health have shared some tips to support early childhood education and care (ECEC) services to spot the signs of heat-related illness in babies and young children, plus practical tips to keep them safe in hot weather.


What is heat-related illness?


The human body normally keeps itself cool by sweating and moving more blood towards the skin. In extreme heat, or for those who are physically active in hot weather, the body’s natural cooling system can begin to fail, and body temperature can increase to dangerous levels. This can cause severe heat-related illness including heat stroke and heat exhaustion.


Heat-related illness is more likely to happen when bodies are dehydrated and can’t produce enough sweat to cool down.


Signs of heat-related illness in babies and young children include:  


  • drowsiness, 
  • extreme or lack of thirst
  • pale, cold or dry skin


During hot weather, babies and young children can overheat and become dehydrated quickly. This is because they are less able to control their body temperature and make choices to stop themselves from overheating.


During hot weather, it’s important to regularly check for the following signs that a baby or young child’s health may be affected.


  • Looks unwell
  • More irritable than usual
  • Drowsy or confused
  • Refuses to drink or is extremely thirsty
  • Body is limp or floppy
  • Skin is pale or cold
  • Sunken eyes and may not have tears when crying


Tips to keep babies and young children safe in the heat


Keep cool


  • Keep babies and young children out of the heat and encourage them to reduce their activity levels.
  • Dress babies and children in light, loose clothing and protect them from the sun with hats and sunscreen.
  • Use air-conditioning, if available. If not available, use fans to circulate air but make sure it is out of their reach, and do not point a fan directly at babies or young children.
  • Cool babies and children with a damp cloth, face washer or sponge them down with lukewarm water, never cold water.


Stay hydrated


  • Babies under six months may need or demand extra feeds during hot weather.
    • For breastfed babies, breast milk provides for their needs and extra water is not necessary. Encourage breastfeeding mothers to drink plenty of fluids.
    • For bottle-fed babies, the number of feeds may need to be increased.
  • For children six months and over, offer extra drinks in hot weather – the best drink is water. You can find more hydration tips on the Healthdirect website. 


For additional advice or support visit the NSW Health Babies and young children in hot weather or refer to the NSW Department of Education’s Hot weather risks for children page for guidance on other heat-related risks during summer.

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