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How to Identify a Heat-Related Illness

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This summer many parts of the country have endured temperatures soaring above 90 degrees for periods lasting several days. When this happens, the heat and humidity you may experience is known as extreme heat.

Extreme heat is responsible for the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards. This is because it impacts the body's ability to self-regulate and cool itself. When the body works harder to maintain a normal temperature it exhausts itself, potentially, losing fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating— at times resulting in death.

It is important to know how to identify a heat-related illness and how to rapidly respond to save yourself or, someone else.

Heat exhaustion is the first sign there may be a serious problem. You could have symptoms such as:

  • Heavy sweating.
  • Paleness.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Tiredness or weakness.
  • Fast or weak pulse.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Fainting.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

You may also be experiencing heat cramps, which are muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs.

The most serious of all heat-related illness is heat stroke. If you are experiencing heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention. Heat stroke symptoms include:

  • Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F).
  • Red, hot and dry skin with no sweat.
  • Rapid, strong pulse.
  • Dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness.

When staying safe during periods of extreme heat, stay out of direct sun and wear loose, light-weight clothing. Be extra careful about sensitive individuals like children, the elderly or those who are sick. Never leave an individual or a pet alone in a parked car, a pool or other high-risk locations.

In the case you or someone else is experiencing heat exhaustion, attempt to drink water (do not drink anything if you believe you are experiencing a heat stroke) and relocate to a cool area. If symptoms last more than 1 hour seek immediate medical attention.

To learn more about heat-related illnesses, visit Ready.gov.

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