How to prevent heat-related illnesses

June 23, 1997

People most at risk for heat-related illness include the very young, the elderly, and those who overexert themselves in hot environments either at work or during recreational activities.

However, given sufficient heat exposure, anyone can develop fatal heatstroke.

Heatstroke, the most serious heat-related illness, is a medical emergency characterized by a body temperature greater than 105 degrees, and may include symptoms such as dry, red skin, disorientation, irritability, convulsions, shivering, delirium and coma.

A person can go from normal to seriously ill in minutes.

Treatment involves the rapid lowering of body temperature, using a cool bath or wet towels. Keep the victim in a cool area.

Call 911.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that may develop due to a combination of high temperatures for several days and a person's inadequate replacement of fluids and electrolytes.


Smptoms are extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea and headache. The victim may also vomit or faint.

The skin is moist and cool, and the body temperature is normal or only slightly high.

The victim must rest in a cool, shaded area and drink plenty of liquids.

If the case is severe, if the victim has heart disease, or other health problems, or if the victim is on a low-sodium diet, check with a doctor.

Prickly heat or heat rash is a painful condition which most commonly appears in the folds of skin. Prickly heat is a sign that the body is not reacting well to heat stress. Someone with prickly heat is at greater risk for heat stroke.

Prevention and treatment for prickly heat include cool bathing, thorough drying of the skin, and using a talc or other body powders.

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