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Tips for Treating Heat-Related Illness

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke happens when the body can no longer control its temperature and the body's core temperature rises rapidly. The body begins to lose its ability to sweat and is unable to cool itself. Warning signs of heat stroke include red, hot, dry skin; very high body temperature; dizziness; nausea; confusion, strange behavior or unconsciousness; rapid pulse or throbbing headache. It can cause death or disability if treatment is not provided as soon as possible. Here's how to help someone suffering from heat stroke:

  • Get medical help quickly.
  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the person off with a cool shower, garden hose, etc.
  • Place cold wet cloths on head, neck, armpits and groin.
  • Do not give the victim fluids to drink.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital for further instructions.

Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if treatment is not provided.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is less intense than heat stroke, but is still a serious health threat. It happens when the body has lost too much water and salt through sweat. Warning signs include heavy sweating, cramps, headache, nausea or vomiting, tiredness, weakness, dizziness and fainting. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can turn into heat stroke. Help the victim cool off with:

  • Cool, nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Rest, lying down.
  • Cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
  • Air-conditioning.
  • Get medical help if the symptoms are severe or if the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscle pains and spasms triggered by heavy activity. They usually involve the stomach muscles or the legs. It is generally thought that the loss of water and salt from heavy sweating causes the cramps. When this occurs:

  • Stop all activities and find a cool place to sit quietly.
  • Drink water or a sports beverage.
  • Rest for a few hours to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Get medical help if heat cramps do not stop after one hour.
  • If the individual suffering from heat cramps has a heart condition or is on a low-sodium diet, seek medical attention immediately.


Sunburn is when skin becomes red, painful and unusually warm after being in the sun. Sunburn should be avoided because it damages the skin and could lead to more serious illness. If you or another person has been sunburned:

  • See a doctor if the sunburn affects an infant younger than one year old or if the victim has fever, blisters or severe pain.
  • Stay out of the sun until the burn has healed.
  • Bathe the sunburned area with cool water.
  • Use moisturizing lotion on sunburn, do not use salve, butter or ointment.
  • Do not break blisters.
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