Learning Center

Jan 29, 2015

Stay Cool: Preventing Heat-Related Illness

~ by Dr. Carol Bridges

What are the two major types of Heat-Related Illness?

Heat Exhaustion

Heat Exhaustion occurs when your body gets too hot. You may feel weak, experience dizziness, have a headache, or feel your heart racing. Do not drink alcohol; this can make heat exhaustion worse. If you do not feel better in 30 minutes, call your doctor. Heat exhaustion can progress to sunstroke.
If you think you have heat exhaustion, get out of the heat, rest in a cool place, and drink plenty of fluids.


Heatstroke happens when your body gets too hot and can occur after you already have heat exhaustion. Heatstroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion and can kill you. Most people with heatstroke have a fever, may seem confused, and can even have a seizure or go into a coma.
If you think someone has heatstroke, get him or her to a cool area and seek medical attention. Remove excessive clothing and try to cool him or her with lukewarm water. Call 911 if the individual exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Skin that feels hot and dry, but not sweaty
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing


What Are the Long Term Effects of Heat-Related Illness?

For about a week after having heatstroke or heat exhaustion, you may be more sensitive to the heat. As you recover, avoid vigorous exercise and hot weather. Ask you doctor when you can return to your normal activities.

What Medicines Can Make You Susceptible to Heatstroke?

  • Allergy Medicines (anti-histamines)
  • Cough and Cold Medicines (decongestants)
  • Some Blood Pressure Medicines
  • Diet Pills (amphetamines)
  • Laxatives
  • Seizure Medicines
  • Thyroid Medicines
  • Water Pills
  • Irritable Bowel and Irritable Bladder Medicines


What are the Signs of Heat-Related Illness?

  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Worried Feeling
  • Fast Heartbeat
  • Dehydration


How can You Prevent Heat-Related Illness?

  • Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat or using an umbrella.
  • Drink extra fluid prior to beginning outdoor activities.
  • Drink fewer products that contain caffeine (coffee, tea, cola) and alcohol.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater.
  • Schedule vigorous activities for cooler times of day such as before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
  • During an activity, take frequent breaks and drink water or other non-caffeinated fluids every 15-20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty.