More Health:

June 22, 2023

The summer heat can cause an array of illnesses; here's what to know

Some ailments, like cramps, need minimal attention. Others, like heat stroke, may require emergency care

Prevention Heat
Heat Related Illness Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Exposure to high temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses like heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and rash.

As temperatures rise this summer, it is important to be aware of the particular ailments that can arise in the heat.

Exposure to extreme heat can cause heat-related illnesses that vary in seriousness, including conditions like heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and rashes.

One of the most efficient ways to prevent many of these heat-related illnesses — besides avoiding extended periods outside in the heat — is to stay hydrated.

"I can't stress enough hydration; they should continually be hydrating," said Dr. Steven Maher, a Mayo Clinic emergency medicine specialist. "And, you know, they should drink lots of water, plenty of it. And once they get into the second or third bottle of water, they can start adding in something like an electrolyte drink just to kind of keep the electrolytes up as well because you lose salts and water."

Here is the vital information to know about heat-related illnesses, including the signs to look out for and what to do if you or someone you know is suffering from one:

Heat stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body no longer can control its temperature. It is considered the most serious heat-related illness, according to the CDC. During heat stroke, the body's temperature quickly rises, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. 

Signs of heat stroke include:

• High body temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit and higher)
• Hot, red, dry or damp skin
• Fast, strong pulse
• Headache
• Nausea
• Confusion
• Loss of consciousness

In the event of heat stroke, 911 should be called immediately. People with heat stroke should be moved to a cooler place, and their temperature can be lowered by using cool cloths or a cool bath. A person suffering from heat stroke should not be given anything to drink.

Without emergency treatment, heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion — the body's response to excessive loss of water and salt — is most likely to affect the elderly, people with high blood pressure and people working in hot environments.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

• Cold, pale and clammy skin
• Fast, weak pulse
• Nausea or vomiting
• Muscle cramps
• Tiredness or weakness
• Dizziness
• Headache
• Fainting

In the event of heat exhaustion, a person should be moved to a cool place, sip water and take a cool bath or place cool, wet cloths on their body. People with heat exhaustion should seek immediate medical help if they are vomiting, or if symptoms worsen or persist for more than an hour.

Heat cramps

Heat cramps, which sometimes appear as symptoms of heat exhaustion, usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activities. Sweating can deplete the body's salt levels in the muscles, which leads to painful cramps.

Signs of heat cramps include heavy sweating during intense exercise and muscle pain or spasms.

People who are suffering from heat cramps should stop physical activity, move to a cool place, hydrate and wait for their cramps to stop before performing further physical activity. 

People with heat cramps should seek medical attention if they have a heart condition or if the cramps last for more than an hour.

Heat rash

Heat rash is an irritation of the skin that's usually caused by sweating in hot, humid weather.

Signs of heat rash include red clusters of tiny blisters that look like pimples on the skin. Most often, they appear on the neck, chest, groin or in elbow creases.

People who have heat rash they should stay in a cool place, keep their rashes dry and use a powder to soothe the irritation. Ointments and creams should not be used.

Follow Franki & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @wordsbyfranki | @thePhillyVoice
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice
Have a news tip? Let us know.

Follow us

Health Videos