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Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses

June 13, 2013

When people think about summer and heat, a lot of people focus their concern on possible sunburn. Avoiding sunburn is very important however sunburn is not the only adverse effect of being unprepared for time in the sun. It is also important to avoid other heat-related illnesses that one can suffer as a result of a high body temperature or hyperthermia. The nervous system regulates body temperature and when it cannot transfer enough heat through sweat to keep the body cool, health complications may arise. A person can develop an elevated body temperature rather quickly when it’s very hot, so it is best to take precautions to prevent this.

Heat-Related Illnesses Include:

Heat Rash

heat related illness graphicOccurs when the ducts from sweat glands in the skin become blocked due to excessive perspiration, causing sweat to leak into surrounding tissue. Heat rash looks like tiny bumps surrounded by a zone of red skin. It is common in highly active people, especially on clothed parts of the body, including the back, abdomen, neck, upper chest, groin or armpits.

Heat Edema

Common in older adults, heat edema is the swelling of hands and/or legs that occurs when blood vessels expand, or dilate, causing body fluid to move into the hands or legs by gravity. Heat edema can occur by sitting or standing for long periods in a hot space.

Heat Syncope

Heat syncope occurs when a person faints suddenly and loses consciousness due to low blood pressure. Symptoms that may lead to heat syncope include feeling faint; pale, cool and moist skin; lightheadedness when changing position. Recovery from heat syncope is rapid after the person lies down in a cool environment.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when a person cannot sweat enough to cool the body. It is most common in people working or exercising in hot weather. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness or nausea as well as pale, cool and moist skin. Moderate to severe heat exhaustion can sometimes lead to heatstroke.


Also known as sunstroke, heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Heatstroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its temperature, allowing body temperature to continue to rise. Classic heatstroke, which can develop without exertion when a person is exposed to a hot environment, occurs most often in babies, older adults and people with chronic health problems.

Of course these heat-related illnesses are not good for one’s overall health but you also need to consider heart health. All of these heat-related illnesses cause stress and can tax the heart. It is important to stay hydrated. And staying hydrated means you need to drink water because juices and soda will not keep you hydrated the way water does. Check out the Summer Safety Survival Guide a free download from North Ohio Heart for more information on how you can take care of yourself this summer.