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Extreme Temperature Exposure

What do I do if my child is exposed to extreme temperatures?

If your child is exposed to extreme temperaturesusually for an extended period of time and without appropriate clothing or other protectionhe could find himself in a life-threatening situation.


Hypothermia develops when a child's temperature falls below normal due to exposure to cold. This condition often occurs when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing. As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy; his speech may become slurred and his body temperature will decline.

What to do: Call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the youngster indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes. If his breathing or pulse stops, he will need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or CPR.


Frostbite takes place when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to occur on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears, and nose, which may become pale, gray and blistered. At the same time, the youngster may complain that his skin burns or has become numb.

What to do: Bring the child indoors, where you should place the frostbitten parts of his body in warm (not hot) water; warm washcloths may be applied to frostbitten nose, ears and lips. Do not rub the frozen areas. After a few minutes, dry and cover him with clothing or blankets. Give him something warm to drink. If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your doctor.


Heatstroke can occur when a child overexerts himself in very hot weather and becomes dehydrated. The mechanisms in the brain that control body temperature can stop working, and he may run a fever of 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. His skin will become hot, dry (not perspiring) and flushed. He may feel dizzy and nauseous, and experience stomach cramps and rapid breathing.

What to do: You should move a child with heatstroke out of the sun, and call for emergency help (911) at once. Take off his clothing and place him in a cool (not cold) bathtub. To help restore circulation, massage his arms, legs and other body parts.

Your child should always increase his fluid intake in hot weather, especially while exercising. Encourage him to drink readily available liquids regularly. When your child participates in organized sports in the hot months of summer, he should dress in a minimal amount of loose-fitting clothing.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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