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How to Recognize, Remedy and Prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

By |2024-06-27T14:56:12-04:00June 27th, 2024|Categories: Health A-Z|Tags: |

It seems like every year the summer weather hits earlier and hotter. Whether you’re gardening in your backyard, jogging at the track, or out and about running chores, when the mercury climbs, your body has to work harder to keep cool.

“When pushed too far, your body can run out of energy and resources, resulting in heat exhaustion,” says CentraState emergency medicine physician Jeremy Dayner, MD. “If it’s not addressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke – a life-threatening condition.”

With this summer predicted to be the hottest on record, it’s important to know the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, how to respond and steps you can take to help prevent them. Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke. If you notice one or more of these signs and symptoms, do not ignore or try to push through them.


Signs & Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Intense thirst
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Unsteady gait
  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold/clammy skin
  • Weak, rapid pulse

How to Respond to Heat Exhaustion

  • Stop all activity and rest. If you’re outdoors, find a shady spot or go indoors, ideally in air conditioning. If you’re in a hot room, move into a cooler one.
  • Slowly sip water or a sports drink with electrolytes.
  • Splash cold water on your face or use wet, cool cloths.
  • Take a cool shower or bath if it’s accessible.
  • Wait at least 24 to 48 hours before exercising.


Signs & Symptoms of Heatstroke

  • Confusion, delirium, slurred speech
  • Hot, dry skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Seizure
  • Extremely high core body temperature—104 F and above
  • Loss of consciousness

How to Respond to Heatstroke

Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone is suffering from heatstroke. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention.


The old adage holds true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are several important tips for preventing heat-related illness.

Wear breathable clothes

Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing helps your body cool efficiently.

Stay hydrated

Drinking lots of fluids helps your body perspire and maintain a normal temperature.

Sideline sunburn

A sunburn impacts your body’s ability to cool down, so be sure to protect yourself. Wear sunglasses, a hat and broad-spectrum sunscreen—at least 30 SPF. Apply generously and reapply frequently after swimming.

Avoid exercising or working outside during the hottest part of the day

Try to exercise or perform laborious activities earlier in the morning. If you can’t avoid the peak midday heat, drink plenty of fluids and take breaks in the shade.

Allow yourself time to adjust to hot weather

Your body needs time to acclimate to changes in temperature. Ease into hot temperature exposure, especially if you’re performing strenuous activities. Slowly increase heat exposure and activity exertion so your body gradually adapts.

Be aware of medications that make you sensitive to heat

Certain medications can make you sensitive to heat. Some examples include diuretics, beta-blockers, hypertension medications, antihistamines and psychiatric medications. Check with your doctor to make sure you’re aware of the side effects of your medications.

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