How to Recognize 3 Heat related Illnesses


By Vanessa Patterson

For older adults there is an increased risk for three heat illnesses during the summer months. These heat illnesses (from least to most severe) include: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. All are a result of increased heat exposure.

It is important to know the signs, symptoms, and treatment of these heat illnesses to enjoy a fun and safe summer! All recommendations for treatments are outlined as suggested by the Centre for Disease Control.


Heat Cramps

What are they? Heat cramps consist of heavy sweating during intense exercise and muscle pains or spasms.

If you have a heat cramp be sure to:

  • Move to a cool place
  • Re-hydrate
  • Wait for cramps to subside

When to Seek Help? If your cramps last more than an hour, you have heart problems, or you’re on a low sodium diet, seek medical help immediately.

Heat Exhaustion

What is it? Heat exhaustion can be signified by: heavy sweating; pale, clammy, skin; a fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headaches; or fainting.

If you think you’re experiencing heat exhaustion be sure to:

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen clothing
  • Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
  • Sip water

When to Seek Help? If your symptoms get worse or if they last longer than one hour seek medical help. Heat exhaustion can easily progress into heat stroke which is a medical emergency.

Heat Stroke

What is it? Heat stroke is the most dangerous of the three and symptoms include: high body temperature; hot, red, dry, or damp skin; fast strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; or losing consciousness.

Victims of heat stroke should:

  • Call 911 right away
  • Move to a cooler place
  • Try to lower the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or a bath
  • Do not give the person anything to drink

Yes, heat illnesses can be scary, but they are easily preventable when you know and can recognize the signs and symptoms!


Samantha Payne