Heat Illnesses and What to Do

Heat illness is a potentially dangerous condition that occurs when the body is unable to regulate its own temperature. Symptoms can range from mild to severe:

Heat Cramps (mild symptoms)
Cramping of the muscles occurs when there is excessive loss of water and possibly salt from the body. The cramps are most commonly in the abdomen and legs. The victim's skin may be pale, warm and moist. The victim may also have prickly heat, excessive sweating, mild dizziness and weakness.

Help someone with heat cramps by moving the victim to a cool, shaded area and providing water or a sports drink. Do not give salt. Seek medical attention if the symptoms continue for more than two hours.

Heat Exhaustion (moderate symptoms)
This more serious condition results from the loss of large amounts of water and salt. Severe cramping may be evident along with dizziness, nausea or vomiting. The skin will be pale, cool and moist.

This is a medical urgency and may require transport to a medical facility. Do not leave this person unattended. Help someone with heat exhaustion by moving the person to a cool, shaded area and providing water or a sports drink if the victim is awake. Lay the person on his or her back and remove any heavy clothing. Loosen the remaining clothing. Wet the person down with cold, wet towels and turn fans toward the victim. Heat exhaustion may lead to heat stroke.

Heat Stroke (severe symptoms)
This life-threatening condition demands immediate medical attention. The brain is no longer regulating its own internal temperature. Heat stroke usually happens suddenly with mental confusion, loss of consciousness and convulsions. The skin is dry, hot and red.

Call 911 or other medical emergency number. Help someone with heat stroke by removing all heavy clothing and wetting the victim down with cold water and available ice. Place wet, cold towels by the head, armpits and the sides of the person's chest.

Preventing Heat Illness

  • Wear loose, light-colored protective clothing, including head cover, when working outside

  • If inside, wear loose, light-weight clothing and try to increase air flow into your work area with fans and/or open doors for ventilation

  • Drink one pint or more of cool water each hour

  • At the first sign of weakness or dizziness, leave the environment to cool down

  • Acclimatize yourself to working in hot or humid environments by gradually increasing the amount of time and strenuousness of tasks done under such conditions

  • If you are out of work or on vacation for more than one week, you will need to reacclimatize yourself again to the working conditions