Mein Baby ist krank - Sonnenstich bei Kleinkindern.

Sunstroke and Heat Stroke in Young Children



Children can sometimes get too hot without noticing. Babies and toddlers, in particular, are much more sensitive to heat than older children when the sun shines on their heads and necks for too long. This may result in sunstroke. 

Heat exhaustion, or – in its most severe form – heat stroke, is a condition caused by lack of fluids and overheating, where the body is no longer able to maintain its internal temperature at the normal level. This typically happens in a situation where the weather is very hot, possibly with added physical exertion, or where clothing is inappropriate.


In their early years, children have thinner cranial bones and usually less hair. It also takes many months before the capacity to sweat is fully developed. This means they tend to get hot more quickly and are less able to regulate their heat balance compared to adults. Added to this, children have larger heads in relation to their body size and thus, more skin surface.

Sunstroke and heat stroke in children are common and often require emergency care.



When the sun shines on the head or neck for too long, this leads to an irritation of the meninges. The child often does not react until hours after their exposure to the sun, for example, not until the night..

  • This causes severe headaches, expressed by the baby through shrill and persistent screaming.
  • They frequently experience neck pain or stiffness.
  • The head is red and hot, while the rest of the body appears unaffected.
  • Normally, the child has no fever.
  • Nausea, vomiting and dizziness are common.
  • Children cannot tolerate noise or light and are very irritable.
Heat exhaustion:
  • They may appear either irritable or completely uninterested in their surroundings.
  • They may appear either irritable or completely uninterested in their surroundings.
  • They almost always experience a persistent headache and nausea. Vomiting, dizziness and hearing and vision impairments are also common.
  • They are thirsty and their mouth is dry.
  • Their skin is hot and red. Sweating is a good sign!
  • Their body temperature is significantly elevated (>39 °C)


Heat stroke – Call the emergency services 144 at once!
Heat stroke:
  • The symptoms described above are even more pronounced!
  • The skin is very red, hot, and dry all over the body. The absence of sweating indicates a serious lack of fluids, and the collapse of the body's internal temperature-regulating system!
  • The child has a temperature, often above 40 °C.
  • Breathing is shallow and fast, the pulse highly accelerated.
  • The child feels sick and vomits.
  • They have a headache.
  • Heat stroke may be accompanied by hallucinations, and convulsions. Reduced awareness and even unconsciousness are possible.

 What can Mum/Dad do themselves?

In case of sunstroke:
  • Move the child into the shade.
  • Cool the head and neck by wrapping them in cold towels or cold packs.
  • Calm the child and keep a close eye on them.
  • Take their temperature (if it has raised, it is more serious than sunstroke).
  • If the child is conscious and not complaining of nausea, they can drink.
In case of heat exhaustion:
  • Move the child into the shade or to a cool room.
  • Loosen any tight clothing.
  • Cool them down: cold packs on the neck, in the armpits and groin, spray with water.
  • Take their temperature: if it is above 39 °C, the child must be taken to hospital.
  • If the child is lethargic or confused, it is worth seeing a doctor.
  • Put their legs up.
  • Give them mineral water or broth to drink and pretzel sticks to eat, in order to restore their fluids and salt levels.

 When should you see a doctor?


In case of heat stroke: call the emergency services 144 at once!

In case of heat stroke: call the emergency services at once!

Until the ambulance arrives:

  • Move the child into the shade.
  • Remove all their clothing and rub the whole body with damp cloths or cold packs.
  • If the child is conscious and not complaining of nausea, they may have a drink.

In case of sunstroke:

Call the emergency services if:

  • the child is unconscious,
  • the child is hallucinating,
  • they are in severe pain,
  • their condition appears to be deteriorating rapidly,
  • or if there is no improvement within 20 minutes despite having tried to cool them down.

How to prevent heat-related health issues?

  • Only allow the child to play in the shade.
  • Protect the head and neck with a hat when in the sun.
  • Make sure they drink regularly.
  • Do not let the child run around in very hot weather.