Preventing Heat-Related Illness
- Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun's energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella.
- Drink water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body.
- Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein which increase metabolic heat.
- Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
- Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
- Stay indoors when possible.
- Take regular breaks when engaged in physical activity on warm days. Take time out to find a cool place. If you recognize that you, or someone else, is showing the signals of a heat-related illness, stop activity and find a cool place. Remember, have fun, but stay cool!
Stages of Heat-Related Illness
Heat-related illness usually comes in stages. The signal of the first stage is heat cramps in muscles. These cramps can be very painful. If you are caring for a person who has heat cramps, have him or her stop activity and rest. If the person is fully awake and alert, have him or her drink small amounts of cool water or a commercial sports drink. Gently stretch the cramped muscle and hold the stretch for about 20 seconds, then gently massage the muscle. Repeat these steps if necessary. If the victim has no other signals of heat-related illness, the person may resume activity after the cramps stop.
The signals heat exhaustion include:
- Cool, moist, pale skin (the skin may be red right after physical activity)
- Dizziness and weakness or exhaustion
- The skin may or may not feel hot
The signals heat stroke include:
- Decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness
- High body temperature (sometimes as high as 105oF)
- Skin may still be moist or the victim may stop sweating and the skin may be red, hot and dry
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
This late stage of a heat-related illness is life threatening.
Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.