How to recognize a heat–related illness

  • Published
  • By 23rd Medical Group
  • 23rd Medical Group
Even at the end of the summer it's important to know, and be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heat-related illness. There are different types of heat-related illnesses, ranging from those that cause temporary discomfort to the generally fatal condition known as heat stroke. In all heat-related illnesses, the symptoms appear when a person is exposed to extreme temperatures.

The following checklist can help you recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses:
Heat Rash: Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot and humid weather. It can occur at any age. Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.

Heat cramps: A person who has been exercising or participating in other types of strenuous activity in the heat may develop painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen referred to as heat cramps. The body temperature is usually normal, and the skin will feel moist and cool, but sweaty.

Heatstroke: A life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes. Symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness
Heat exhaustion: An illness that can precede heatstroke. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse.

Your body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn't enough. Your body's ability to cool itself through sweating is inhibited. Your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and you can develop a heat illness.

Most heat illnesses occur from staying in the heat too long. Exercising too much for your age and physical condition are also factors. Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are at the most risk.

Drinking fluids, replenishing salt and minerals, and limiting time in the heat can help. However, if you recognize the onset of heat-induced illness, take the following steps as necessary:
· Get the person out of the sun and into a cool area. An air-conditioned area is ideal, but moving someone into the shade will help.
· Apply water to help the person cool off.
· Apply ice to the neck or armpits, where large blood vessels are close to the surface.
· Remove any heavy clothing.
· Immerse the body in cool water, either at a swimming pool or in a bathtub.
· Call 911 for life-threatening heat-stroke emergencies.

Additional information regarding heat-related illness can be found on the Center for Disease Contol website at

For questions regarding the information in this article, contact the 23rd Medical Group at