Your body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially when it is very humid, sweating just isn't enough to cool you off. Your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and you can develop a heat illness.
Most heat illnesses happen when you stay out in the heat too long. Exercising and working outside in high heat can also lead to heat illness. Older adults, young children, and those who are sick or overweight are most at risk. Taking certain medicines or drinking alcohol can also raise your risk.
Heat-related illnesses include
- Heat stroke - a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes. Symptoms include dry skin, a rapid, strong pulse, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. If you see any of these signs, get medical help right away.
- Heat exhaustion - an illness that can happen after several days of exposure to high temperatures and not enough fluids. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast, weak pulse. If it is not treated, it can turn into heat stroke.
- Heat cramps - muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise. You usually get them in your abdomen, arms, or legs.
- Heat rash - skin irritation from excessive sweating. It is more common in young children.
You can lower your risk of heat illness by drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, replacing lost salt and minerals, and limiting your time in the heat.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Extreme Heat (Department of Homeland Security) Also in Spanish
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Extreme Heat (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Hot Weather Safety for Older Adults (National Institute on Aging) Also in Spanish
- Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Heat Wave Safety Checklist (American Red Cross) - PDF
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Miliaria Rubra (Logical Images)
- Parents' and Coaches' Guide to Dehydration and Other Heat Illnesses in Children (National Athletic Trainers' Association) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Heat emergencies (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- How to avoid overheating during exercise (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Protecting Workers from Heat Stress (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
- Protecting Yourself from Heat Stress (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) - PDF Also in Spanish