Friday, May 20, 2022

Here are signs of heat-related illnesses. Can you tell them apart?

Recognize the signs of heat illnesses with this graphic from the National Weather Service.
Recognize the signs of heat illnesses with this graphic from the National Weather Service.

Extreme heat is dangerous, but recognizing the differences between the three heat-related illnesses recognized by the National Weather Service and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could mean life or death.

Hot and humid weather means the body has a harder time cooling itself, according to the National Weather Service website.

“When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and you or someone you care about may experience a heat-related illness,” the website states. “It is important to know the symptoms of excessive heat exposure and the appropriate responses.”

The CDC cites three types of heat related illnesses, ranging from the discomfort of cramps to the deadly heat stroke. Recognizing the differences among the three and when medical attention is needed could save lives.

Heat cramps

Heat cramps are sometimes the first signs of a heat-related illness.


Heavy sweating during exercise and muscle pains or spasm.

What to do
  • Stop exercising
  • Move to a cool place
  • Sip water or a sports drink
  • Do not return to physical activity until cramps subside
Seek medical attention if …
  • Cramps last more than one hour
  • You are on a low sodium diet
  • You have heart problems

Heat exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating
  • A headache
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling tired, weak or dizzy
  • Fainting
What to do
  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen clothing
  • Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
  • Sip water
Seek medical attention if …
  • You are throwing up
  • Symptoms get worse
  • Symptoms last longer than one hour

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency.  Call 911 right away.

  • High body temperature (103 degrees or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • A headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling confused
  • Fainting
What to do
  • Seek medical help right away. Do not give the person anything to drink.
  • Move the person to a cooler place.
  • Lower the body temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath.

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