Saturday, July 20, 2024

Here are the 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
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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