Heat-Related Problems Illness

Heat Stress

The brain carries a temperature regulator that keeps the body near a healthy 98°F. But prolonged exposure to extreme heat may confuse this natural thermostat. Remember: When body temperature goes way out of line, trouble isn’t far behind.

Intense heat may cause excessive fluid loss through sweating (heat exhaustion). If the body isn’t cooled, sweating eventually stops, but the body’s temperature may keep rising until vital organs begin to fail (heat stroke).

Heat Stress: Warning Signs and Treatment

Even severe heat stress can appear suddenly, so learn the warning signs and how to treat them.

Mild: Heat Cramps
Core body temperature stays at 98.6°F (37°C). It isn't dangerous unless the symptoms aren't treated. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Sweating a lot
  • Having painful spasms in your muscles during activity or hours afterward (heat cramps)
  • Developing tiny red bumps on skin and a prickling sensation (prickly heat)
  • Feeling irritable, dizzy, or weak

Treatment: Get medical advice and do the following:

  • Rest in a cool, shady area.
  • Drink water or a sport drink.

Moderate: Heat Exhaustion
Core body temperature may rise up to 101°F (38.3°C). It should be treated right away. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Sweating a lot
  • Cold, moist, pale or flushed skin
  • Feeling very weak or tired
  • Headache, nausea, loss of appetite
  • Feeling dizzy or giddy
  • Rapid or weak pulse

Treatment: Get medical treatment! You may be told to:

  • Rest in a cool, shady area.
  • Drink water or a sport drink. In some cases, a medical professional must administer fluids.
  • Take salt (in some cases).
  • Use cool compresses on the forehead, around the neck, and under armpits.
  • Blow air onto your skin with fans.

Severe: Heat Stroke
This is a serious, life-threatening medical emergency. Core body temperature can rise to 105°F (40.5°C) or more. If not treated right away, heat stroke can lead to permanent brain damage and even death. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Sweating stops
  • Hot, dry skin that looks red, mottled, or bluish
  • Deep, fast breathing
  • Headache or nausea
  • Rapid, weak, or irregular pulse
  • Feeling dizzy, confused, or delirious
  • Fainting
  • Convulsions

Treatment: Someone should call for emergency help right away. While waiting for emergency help, the affected person should:

  • Rest in a cool, shady area.
  • Have clothing soaked with cool water. Or, remove outer clothing and be wrapped with a sheet soaked in cool water.
  • Be blown with fans.
  • Drink water or a sport drink. (Do not try to give a drink to someone who is unconscious.)