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Posted on Wed, Jun 8, 2011 : 9:20 a.m.

Know the symptoms and treatments for heat-related conditions and stay safe this summer

By Washtenaw County Public Health

It seems like it's been a long, soggy, cool spring, so when the sun is shining a lot of us are anxious to get out and soak it up. But when you step outside these days it feels like a blast furnance.

So much for easing into summer. We've gone from holding back the flood waters to standing under a garden hose for relief. When temps get this high it's important to stay safe, particularly if you're working outside, or even if you're relaxing in the yard.

First, keep in mind we have to get acclimated to these hot temperatures. When the temps are in the 90s, we just can't do the things as easily as when it was in the 60s. (Which seems like just last week).

Try to get into a cool area every so often, drink some water and, this may sound odd, but make sure you are sweating. When a person stops sweating, heat stroke can occur, the most deadly of all the heat related illnesses.

Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.

When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature
  • Confusion/dizziness
  • Slurred speech

First Aid

Take the following steps to treat workers with heat stroke:

  • Call 911 and notify their supervisor.
  • Move the sick worker to a cool shaded area.
  • Cool the worker using methods such as soaking his clothes with water, praying, sponging, or showering him with water and/or fanning his body.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of the water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Workers most prone to heat exhaustion are those that are elderly, have high blood pressure and those working in a hot environment.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness, confusion
  • Nausea
  • Clammy, moist skin
  • Pale or flushed complexion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Slightly elevated body temperature
  • Fast and shallow breathing

First Aid

Treat workers suffering from heat exhaustion with the following:

  • Have them rest in a cool, shaded or air-conditioned area.
  • Have them drink plenty of water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Have them take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.

Heat Syncope

Heat syncope is a fainting (syncope) episode or dizziness that usually occurs with prolonged standing or sudden rising from a sitting or lying position. Factors that may contribute to heat syncope include dehydration and lack of acclimatization

Symptoms of heat syncope include:

  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • First Aid

Workers with heat syncope should:

  • Sit or lie down in a cool place when they begin to feel symptoms.
  • Slowly drink water, clear juice, or a sports beverage.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps usually affect workers who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body's salt and moisture levels. Low salt levels in muscles causes painful cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion


Muscle pain or spasms usually in the abdomen, arms or legs.

First Aid

Workers with heat cramps should:

  • Stop all activity, and sit in a cool place.
  • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
  • Not return to strenuous work for a few hours after the cramps subside because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Seek medical attention if any of the following apply: The worker has heart problems, the worker is on a low-sodium diet or the cramps do not subside within one hour.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather.

Symptoms of heat rash include:

  • Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
  • It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts and in elbow creases.

First Aid

Workers experiencing heat rash should:

  • Try to work in a cooler, less humid environment when possible.
  • Keep the affected area dry.
  • Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort

Washtenaw County Public Health reminds you to drink water, take breaks, and don't overdo it in this heat. We can be reached at 734-544-6700.