Public Health describes heat-related illness emergency symptoms

Published 6:18 am Monday, July 2, 2012


Southwest Public Health District

Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided, cautions Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant. Knowing who is at greatest risk of heat-related illness, the symptoms and how to respond is especially important during heat waves.

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“During periods of extremely hot weather such as we have experienced recently, we want to remind people to be aware of the risk of heat stroke, which occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature and self-cool,” Grant said.

Symptoms of heat-stroke include:

• High temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, orally);

• Red, hot and dry skin with no sweating;

• Rapid, strong pulse;

• Throbbing headache;

• Dizziness;

• Nausea;

• Confusion;

•  Unconsciousness.

“If these symptoms occur, call 9-1-1 immediately,” Grant said. “Meanwhile, get the victim out of the sun, cool the victim with whatever means are available, and if emergency personnel are delayed, call them for additional instructions. Heat stroke is a life-and-death emergency.”

Older adults, the very young and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk of heat-related illness and death.

“However, even young and healthy individuals can fall victim to heat-related illness if they are involved in strenuous physical activity during hot weather,” Grant said.

The No. 1 protection against heat-related illness and death is air-conditioning, Grant said.

“If you do not have air-conditioning in your home, then we recommend you spend time in air-conditioned buildings such as libraries or shopping malls,” she said.

Other tips include:

• Drink plenty of fluids, but stay away from those that are sugary or alcoholic — because they actually cause you to lose more body fluid — and avoid very cold drinks, since they can cause stomach cramps.

• Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.

• Try to limit outdoor activities to early in the morning or late in the evening, when temperatures are cooler.

• Never leave children or pets in cars, even with the windows cracked open.

More information is available online at