During extremely hot and humid weather the body's ability to cool itself is affected. When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and heat-related illnesses may develop.

Factors or conditions that can make some people more susceptible to heat-related illnesses include age (older adults and young children), obesity, fever, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, prescription drug and alcohol use, and sunburn. Sunburn, caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, can significantly retard the skin's ability to shed excess heat.

Heat-related illnesses can range from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to more serious heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.

Heat-Related Illness Symptoms and First Aid

HEAT EXHAUSTION

Symptoms:Heavy sweatingWeaknessCool, pale, clammy skinWeak pulsePossible muscle crampsDizzinessNausea and vomitingFaintingNormal temperature possibleFirst Aid:Move person to a cooler environmentRemove or loosen clothingApply cool, wet clothsFan or move victim to air conditioned roomOffer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke)

Symptoms: Altered mental statePossible throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathingHigh body temperature (106°F or higher)Skin may be hot and dry, or patient may be sweatingRapid pulsePossible unconsciousnessFirst Aid:Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environmentReduce body temperature with a water mister and fan or spongingUse fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90sUse extreme cautionIf temperature rises again, repeat processDo NOT give fluids