Exercise-heat tolerance (EHT) in children is influenced by many physiological factors, including sweat gland activity, cardiac output, exercise economy, ability to acclimate to heat, and maturation of organ systems. It is generally believed that children cannot tolerate hot environments as well as adults, although some children exhibit EHT that is superior to that of adults. There has been no research showing large exercise-induced differences between the core body temperatures of children versus adults, but differences in the time to onset of syncope and fatigue have been observed. This suggests that the greatest risk of heat illness for children is heat exhaustion (i.e., cardiovascular instability) and not heat stroke (i.e., hyperthermia). Therefore this review (a) examines the conclusions of previous studies to clarify misinterpretations of data, and (b) identifies research questions that require future study.
The authors are with the University of Connecticut, Human Performance Laboratory, Storrs, CT 06269-1110.