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By: Elena Jamscek, PA-C


The human body is normally able to regulate its temperature through sweating, until it is exposed to more heat than it can handle. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can escalate rapidly, leading to delirium, organ damage and even death.


People most at risk include:


Infants and young children, especially if left in hot cars

People 65 and older

People who are ill, have chronic health conditions or are on certain medications

People who are overweight

Heat Exhaustion


Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion


Pale, ashen or moist skin

Muscle cramps (especially for those working or exercising outdoors in high temperatures)

Fatigue, weakness or exhaustion

Headache, dizziness or fainting

Nausea or vomiting

Rapid heart rate


Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heat stroke, so make sure to treat victims quickly:


Move victims to a shaded or air-conditioned area

Give water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages

Apply wet towels, or have victims take a cool shower



Heat Stroke signs include:


Body temperature above 103 degrees

Skin that is flushed, dry and hot to the touch; sweating has usually stopped

Rapid breathing

Headache, dizziness, confusion or other signs of altered mental status

Irrational or belligerent behavior

Convulsions or unresponsiveness


Immediately take action:


Call 911

Move the victim to a cool place

Remove unnecessary clothing

Immediately cool the victim, preferably by immersing up to the neck in cold water (with the help of a second rescuer)

If immersion in cold water is not possible, place the victim in a cold shower or move to a cool area and cover as much of the body as possible with cold, wet towels

Keep cooling until body temperature drops to 101 degrees

Monitor the victim’s breathing and be ready to give CPR if needed




Force the victim to drink liquids

Apply rubbing alcohol to the skin

Allow victims to take pain relievers or salt tablets


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:


Air conditioning is the best way to cool off

Drink fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and avoid alcohol

Wear loose, lightweight clothing and a hat

Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks

Avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest part of the day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Wear sunscreen; sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself

Pace yourself when you run or otherwise exert your body