What are some of the most
common heat-related conditions?
The most common heat-related
conditions are heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and
heat rash. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are the most serious
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke occurs when the body
becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature
rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable
to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106·F or higher within 10
to 15 minutes. Heatstroke can result from overexposure to direct
sunlight, with or without physical activity, or to very high indoor
temperatures. It can cause death or permanent disability if
emergency treatment is not given.
What are the symptoms of
Symptoms of heatstroke include an
extremely high body temperature (above 103·F, orally); red, hot and
dry skin; rapid pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea;
confusion; and unconsciousness.
How is heatstroke treated?
If symptoms of heatstroke are
present, find a cool place, preferably an air-conditioned indoor
setting. Outside, find a spot in the shade. Put the person in a
semi-sitting position. Loosen his or her clothing and bathe the head
and body with COLD water. Seek medical attention immediately.
What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion can result when too
much time is spent in a very warm environment, resulting in
excessive sweating without adequate fluid and electrolyte (salt and
minerals) replacement. This can occur either indoors or outdoors,
with or without exercise.
What are the symptoms of
Symptoms of heat exhaustion may
include dizziness, headache, nausea, abdominal cramps, shallow
breathing, cool and clammy skin, muscle tremors and heavy
How is heat exhaustion
A person suffering from heat
exhaustion should be moved to an air-conditioned environment if
possible. If outside, move the person to a shady spot. Loosen the
person's clothing and encourage him or her to drink cool,
non-alcoholic, decaffeinated beverages. Keep the person quiet. It
may be necessary to seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or
last longer than one hour or if the person has heart problems or
high blood pressure. If left untreated, heat exhaustion may progress
How can I avoid heat
exhaustion and heatstroke?
Try to keep cool during extremely
hot weather. Stay in a cool environment (preferably air
conditioned), drink plenty of fluids -- such as water, fruit juices
or fruit drinks -- and use common sense. Heat injury may develop
with or without feelings of discomfort.
What if I do not have an
Seek out the nearest facility that
is air conditioned, such as a cooling shelter, a senior citizen
center, a church, the local YMCA or a center designated by your
community. Even short periods of time in a cool environment will
lessen the risk of heat injury. Fans alone will not effectively cool
an overheated person when air temperatures are above 90 ·F.
In the wake of the 1995 heat wave
in Chicago, many older persons reported being afraid to open windows
or to venture out of their homes to go to cooling centers. In these
situations, people may want to contact the local police, their
church or a community group about being escorted to the nearest
What is "plenty of fluids"?
"Plenty of fluids" means at least
1½ to 2 quarts of fluids daily. This can be water, fruit juice, or
fruit-flavored or carbonated drinks. Since aging can cause a
decreased thirst sensation, elderly persons should drink water,
fruit juices or other fruit drinks at regular intervals during the
day, even if they do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcoholic beverages and
those containing caffeine. Salt tablets are not substitutes for
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Who is most at risk for
Anyone can develop heat-related
problems if air ventilation is not adequate or if the person is
overexposed to direct sunlight. However, certain groups of people
are at increased risk during extremely hot weather. These include
elderly persons living alone, people with chronic medical
conditions, and persons taking certain medications.
What kinds of medications
cause special heat-related problems?
A number of different kinds of
medications can pose special problems during periods of extremely
hot weather. These include diuretics (water pills), many heart
medicines, diabetes medicine (tablets and insulin), psychoactive
drugs (antidepressants and mood altering drugs), antihistamines (hay
fever and allergy medicine) and antihypertensive (high blood
pressure) drugs. Do not change or discontinue prescribed medications
without advice from your physician.
How does living alone
increase the risk of heat trauma for the elderly?
Heat-induced illness can result in
confusion, dizziness and loss of consciousness. This is why it is
important that friends and relatives have daily contact -- and not
just telephone contact -- with an elderly person who lives alone.
What about children? Can
they get sick from the heat?
Yes. Young children, particularly
infants, are extremely sensitive to heat and can easily become
dehydrated (lose more body fluids than usual) from high air
temperatures. To help avoid dehydration during extremely hot
weather, adults should make sure children drink plenty of fluids.
Young children should be kept out of direct sunlight.
What are some good tips on
how to avoid heat-related problems?
Use a buddy system. If you
are working in the heat, check on coworkers and have someone
else do the same for you. If you are at home and are 65 years of
age or older or have a chronic health problem, ask a friend,
relative or neighbor check on you at least twice a day, even if
you have air conditioning. If you know someone who is 65 years
of age or older or who has a chronic health problem, check on
them at least twice a day.
Limit outdoor activities.
Try to plan activities for the coolest times of the day --
before noon and in the evening. When physically active, rest
frequently in the shade.
Drink plenty of fluids.
During hot weather, you will need to drink more liquid than your
thirst indicates. Even if you remain indoors and limit your
activity, your body still needs to replace lost fluids, salt and
minerals. Make an extra effort to drink a minimum of six to
eight 8 oz. glasses of cool fluids daily. During heavy exercise
in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses of cool fluids
each hour. Parents should be sure young children get sufficient
fluids. If you are on a special fluid-restricted diet or if you
take diuretics, ask your physician about fluid intake during hot
Protect your body. Wear as
little clothing as possible when indoors, and wear light
colored, loose fitting clothing outdoors. When spending time
outdoors, avoid direct sunlight, wear a hat and use a sunscreen
with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 15 to protect
yourself against sunburn.
Never leave children, the
elderly or pets in a parked car, not even for just a few
minutes. The air temperature inside a car rises rapidly
during hot weather and can lead to brain damage or death.
A final reminder -- take care
of your pets. In many ways, dogs and cats react to hot
weather as humans do. Offer pets extra water and be sure to
place the water dish in a shaded area if outdoors. Make sure
pets have a protected place where they can get away from the
[Text copied from
Department of Public Health]