Skip to content

Information and Resources

Font Size

Take Cover When Heat Is High

Get tips on how to prevent heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

This summer has been a scorcher in much of the nation, with temperatures soaring into the 90s from the western Plains to the East Coast.

What's Hot?

But the line on the thermometer is not the only way weathermen define heat. They have created a Heat Index, which combines heat and humidity to create a sort of 'misery index.' The temp may be 100 degrees, but combined with humidity (which inhibits sweat from evaporating off the skin and cooling the body), the Heat Index may climb into the danger zone at 105 degrees or higher.

By danger zone, they mean: danger of vomiting in public, collapsing, or even dying.

Who's Most Likely to Suffer?

According to the CDC, the elderly, children under 4, people who are overweight, those who become dehydrated, the mentally ill, or people with medical conditions, or who are on certain medications seem to be the most susceptible targets of a heat wave.

"You know who we see a lot?" asks Bruce Bonanno, MD, an emergency medicine physician in the New York and New Jersey areas. "We see young people coming in. One place I work is a beach community. They drink the night before and think their fancy little drinks are hydrating them, when they are doing the exact opposite. Then they go to the beach the next day, fall asleep, bake in the sun, and each day get a little more behind on their fluids. Eventually, they end up in the ER."

Heat Exhaustion

People suffer a heat-related illness when the body's temperature system is overloaded. The body is sweating, but the sweat is not evaporating due to humidity. Eventually, like a runny egg white, the brain begins to "cook."

The most common heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. This usually builds up over several days of activities in a hot environment, without proper replacement of fluids. Wham, it can hit you. The symptoms are:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Turning pale
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Fast breathing
  • Headache

To help the person, provide cool fluids immediately, anything nonalcoholic, but preferably water. Have the person lie down inside or take a cool bath or shower and then rest.

If the person's symptoms are severe or there are pre-existing medical problems, such as high blood pressureor heart disease, then you need to get medical attention right away.

In the ER, Bonanno says, they have sports drinks on hand. If the person is not sick enough to warrant an IV, they can sip the drinks in the waiting room.

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
feet
Solutions for 19 types.
Still Life Of Protein Foods
Do they work?
build a better butt
How to build a better butt.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to kick the habit.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
stressed working woman
And how to fix them?
fat caliper
Check your BMI.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
man with indigestion
How to keep yours at bay.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.