HEAT STROKE: Protect yourself

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two big concerns this time of year, especially for people working hard outdoors. Ignoring the signs and symptoms can have deadly consequences, but there are many things you and your family can do to prevent harmful heat effects.


1. HEAT CRAMPS: Heat cramps affect workers who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. Sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture levels.
Symptoms: muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs
■ Stop all activity, and sit in a cool place.
■ Drink clear juice or a sports beverage, or drink water with food. (Avoid salt tablets.)
■ Do not return to strenuous work for a few hours after the cramps subside.
■ Seek medical attention if you have the following: heart problems, are on a low-sodium diet, or if the cramps do not subside within one hour.

2. HEAT EXHAUSTION: The body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through sweating.
Symptoms: rapid heart beat; heavy sweating; extreme weakness or fatigue; dizziness; nausea, vomiting; irritability; fast, shallow breathing; slightly elevated body temperature
■ Rest in a cool area.
■ Drink plenty of water or other cool beverages.
■ Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.

3. HEAT STROKE: A condition that occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature, and can cause death or permanent disability.
Symptoms: high body temperature; confusion; loss of coordination; hot, dry skin or profuse sweating; throbbing headache; seizures, coma
■ Request immediate medical assistance.
■ Move the worker to a cool, shaded area.
■ Remove excess clothing and apply cool water to their body.



Avoid heavy exertion, extreme heat, sun exposure, and high humidity when possible. When these cannot be avoided, take the following preventative steps:
■ Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers for signs or symptoms of heat illnesses.
■ Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton. Avoid non-breathable synthetic clothing.
■ Gradually build up to heavy work.
■ Take more breaks in the shade or a cool area when doing heavier work in high heat and humidity.
■ Drink water frequently. Drink enough water that you never become thirsty.
■ Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.



■  Download the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety app to help plan out the best times to work outdoors and see real-time heat index and hourly forecasts.
■  Read up on heat exhaustion and hydration at the CDC's blog.
■  Check out more resources from the National Integrated Heat Health Information System website, including heat wave planning and tools for at-risk populations.

SOURCE: Dept. of Health and Human Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention