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Heat Stress: Warning Signs

Even severe heat stress can appear suddenly, so learn the warning signs and how to treat them.

Mild: heat stress

Core body temperature stays at 98.6°F (37°C). It isn't dangerous unless the symptoms aren't treated. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Sweating a lot

  • Having painful spasms in your muscles during activity or hours afterward (heat cramps)

  • Developing tiny red bumps on skin and a prickling sensation (prickly heat)

  • Feeling irritable or weak

Treatment: Get medical advice and do the following:

  • Rest in a cool, shady area.

  • Drink water or a sport drink.

Moderate: heat exhaustion

Core body temperature may rise up to 101°F (38.3°C). It should be treated right away. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Sweating a lot

  • Cold, moist, pale or flushed skin

  • Feeling very weak or tired

  • Headache, nausea, loss of appetite

  • Feeling dizzy or giddy

  • Rapid or weak pulse

Treatment: Get medical treatment urgently! You may be told to:

  • Rest in a cool, shady area.

  • Drink water or a sport drink. In some cases, a medical professional must administer fluids.

  • Take salt (in some cases).

  • Use cool compresses on the forehead, around the neck, and under armpits.

  • Blow air onto your skin with fans.

Severe: heat stroke

This is a serious, life-threatening medical emergency. Core body temperature can rise to 105°F (40.5°C) or more. If not treated right away, heat stroke can lead to permanent brain damage and even death. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Hot, dry skin that looks red, mottled, or bluish

  • Deep, fast breathing

  • Headache or nausea

  • Rapid, weak, or irregular pulse

  • Feeling dizzy, confused, or delirious

  • Fainting

  • Convulsions

Treatment: Someone should call for emergency help right away. While waiting for emergency help, the affected person should:

  • Rest in a cool, shady area.

  • Have clothing soaked with cool water. Or, remove outer clothing and be wrapped with a sheet soaked in cool water. Place the person in water in a tub or children's swimming pool if available.

  • Be blown with fans.

  • Drink water or a sport drink. (Do not try to give a drink to someone who is unconscious.)


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