Hazards: Heat-Related Illness


Extreme Heat

Be alert for the signs of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke. It occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly; loses its ability to sweat; and is unable to cool down.

Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

sun iconGeneral Summer safety tips are also available, covering fireworks, grilling, pool safety and more.

What to Do

Recognize and treat heat related emergencies. Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat, stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality, or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen caused by exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.

  • Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish fluids.
  • Give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions worse. Discontinue liquids if victim is nauseated.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion typically involves the loss of body fluids through heavy sweating during strenuous exercise or physical labor in high heat and humidity. If not treated, the victim’s condition will worsen and the victim may suffer heat stroke

  • Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; weak pulse; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; and weakness.
  • Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition.
  • If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke, also known as sun stroke, is a life-threatening condition in which a person’s temperature control system stops working and the body is unable to cool itself.

  • Signs of heat stroke include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature.
  • Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by giving care as you would for heat exhaustion. If needed, continue rapid cooling by applying ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits.

Related Information




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