Are you suffering heat stroke or heat stress?

July 19, 2011 3:31:24 PM PDT
With yet another heat wave in our area, it's important to remember that the heat can make you sick faster than you think.

Ever had a small, nagging headache in the summer? Has your stomach ever felt queasy, or out of sorts? You've felt the impact of heat stress.

It can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes. Heat can also increase the risk of injuries in workers as it may result in sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness. Burns may also occur as a result of accidental contact with hot surfaces or steam.

The very young, the very old, and those with chronic conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure face the highest risk of heat problems.

But so do many workers - including outdoor workers and those in hot environments such as firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers, factory workers, and others.

Older workers, or those who are overweight, or take some medications are more vulnerable.


Heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of the water and salt, usually through excessive sweating.

Symptoms 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

To treat someone with heat exhaustion:

  • 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.


It 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 include:

  • Hot, dry skin (no sweating)
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature
  • Confusion/dizziness
  • Slurred speech

Act immediately if someone has heat stroke:

  • Call 911, and move the sick person to a cool shaded area.
  • Cool the person using methods such as:
  • Soaking their clothes with water.
  • Spraying, sponging, or showering them with water.
  • Fanning their body.