Sending Students to School on Hot Days Back »

Written collaboratively by Suzanne Stluka and Brittany Thompson.

The month of August, for some parents and students, means back to school in South Dakota. It also means that the hot summer temperatures may still be upon us. As the students head back, not all will experience the comfort of cool air in the classroom as many schools are not equipped with an air conditioning system. Keeping cool when temperatures are high isn't just about comfort. The absence of a cooling system can create sweltering temperatures inside the classroom that can lead to the development of a heat-related illness.

Heat-related illness occurs when human body is unable to stabilize the internal body temperature due to high humidity, increased weather temperatures, vigorous physical activity and other conditions1.

Common Heat-Related Illnesses

Illness Signs and Symptoms What to Do
Heat Cramps Muscle cramps in legs, arms, or abdomen. Rest in a cool place, drink water or electrolytes, and gently massage the cramping muscle.
Heat Exhaustion Increased thirst, weakness, fainting, increased sweating, nausea and/or vomiting, headache, increased body temperature, and cool, clammy skin. Rest in cool place, remove excess clothing, drink water or electrolytes, put a cool, wet cloth on skin, and call doctor for advice.
Heatstroke Increase body temperature above 106° F, severe headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, rapid breathing, loss of consciousness, seizure, no sweating, flushed, hot, dry skin. Call for emergency! Get indoors, undress and douse with cool water, and do NOT give fluids unless awake and alert1.

Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Prevention is the key to avoiding heat-related illnesses. Parents can help their child during the school day through preparation and teaching their child to recognize the symptoms and what to do.

Tips for Parents:

  • Send children to school with a water bottle
    • Freeze overnight so it stays cold throughout the next day
  • Encourage child to drink their water even when they are not thirsty
  • Send hat with child to wear when outdoors
    • Be sure to check school policy regarding hats
  • Make sure the child wears light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • Encourage child to play in shaded area and to rest often
  • Teach child to go indoors whenever they fell overheated2

Many schools that do not cool their schools through an air conditioning system may have procedures in place to cool the classrooms. Even so, preventative steps taken by parents may protect their child from the development of a heat-related illness. It is critical to aware of the signs and to stay hydrated!


  1. Heat Illness, The Nemours Foundation 
  2. Guidelines for Prevention of Heat-Related Illness in Schools, Illinois Department of Public Health
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