Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

The hot summer months are here. While longer days and warmer weather sounds fun, your body may disagree if you’re not careful on the days when the heat and humidity is stifling.

“Being able to recognize the signs of heat-related illness and knowing what to do when you experience them is key to preventing a dangerous situation,” said Dr. William Dalsey, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Capital Health.

Those at the highest risk include older adults, infants, those with high blood pressure and those who exercise or work in hot environments. Stay hydrated and be cautious during the hottest parts of the day. During an extremely hot and humid afternoon, take breaks in a cool environment.

While heat exhaustion and heatstroke are serious threats, they can be avoided. Be aware of the warning signs your body gives you if it is getting too hot.

Ways to Handle Heat-Related Illness

If heat-related symptoms happen to you or someone you know, immediately cool the body down by:

  • Drinking cold beverages
  • Take a cold bath or shower
  • Go to an air conditioned area and remove heavy clothing
  • If possible, elevate your legs and lay down

If symptoms last for more than one hour or get worse, call 9-1-1 or seek immediate medical attention.

Types of Heat-Related Illness


The most severe heat-related illness, signs to look for include extremely high body temperature, no sweating, a rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, a seizure or a coma. Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you’re not the victim, call 9-1-1, take him or her to an air conditioned or shaded area, fan the person to promote sweating, and if possible, place ice packs under the armpits or groin area.

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms begin as soon as your body beings to overheat. Look for heavy sweating, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headaches, nausea or fainting, fast and shallow breathing, a fast and weak pulse and cool or moist skin.

Heat Cramps

The mildest of the three, these painful, involuntary muscle spasms occur most often in your calves, arms stomach wall and back although they can involve any muscle in the body.

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