Recognize Heat Illness

Sure, that lizard probably looks hilarious in its harness, but we already warned you not to let your guard down! The heat is attacking! Is it just garden variety summer malaise or is it dangerous heat illness?

woman suffering from heat related illness

Heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, rhabdomyolysis, heat syncope (fainting), heat cramps, and heat rash. Between 1979 and 2018, over 11,000 Americans died from heat-related causes. Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be fatal, and extreme heat can also be a factor in the onset of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke, but is still a major health concern during a heat wave. It occurs when your body loses excessive water and salt through sweating. If you’re working outside in the heat, you are at high risk for heat exhaustion.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Heavy sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Decreased urine output

Heat exhaustion isn’t necessarily a 911 scenario, but it is an urgent care scenario. Call 911 if they are unable to travel to urgent care. To treat heat exhaustion, remove the affected person from the hot area, provide liquids and electrolytes, remove unnecessary clothing, and apply cool compresses. Never leave a person with heat exhaustion alone and be ready to seek additional medical aid if necessary.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a serious physical response to excessive heat wherein the body loses its ability to cool itself. Basically, you’re so hot you can’t sweat, which is a terrifying bodily malfunction. The result is abnormally high body temperatures that often become fatal if left untreated.

Symptoms include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature

Heat stroke is a 911 scenario, so call immediately if you think it’s heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler, shaded area, and use cooling compresses and water to provide temporary relief until help arrives.

To minimize these risks during heat waves, avoid sun exposure as much as possible and rely on cool baths, fans, and other cooling systems.

Information icon

Your car effectively turns into an oven during a heat wave.

Even in mild 70°F weather, the inside of a car can reach 115°F! Since 1998, over 900 children have died in hot cars in the US. Never leave kids unattended in the car.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.