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Heat stress: Staying safe in the summer

During the hot summer months, it is important to practice proper heat safety. Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, Injury Prevention Coordinator weighs in on what heat stress is and how to prevent and treat it. 

What is heat stress?

Heat stress is a stress caused by heat. Human, animals and any living being can experience heat stress. When too much heat is absorbed by a person, plant, or animal, it causes stress to the system. For human beings, it can cause heat cramp, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which may ultimately lead to death.

What overall signs and symptoms of heat stress should I look out for if I am spending a day in the hot sun? 

Common signs and symptoms of heat related illnesses are:

  • Muscle cramps to stomach, arms, or legs (one of the first signs of heat stress due to excessive sweating that depletes the body’s salt level. Low salt in the body causes painful cramps.)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating 
  • Increased body temperature
  • Weakness
  • Light headedness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Headache
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Seizures 
  • Changes in mental status, hallucination, slurred speech 
  • Loss of consciousness

What do I do if I see someone experiencing heat stress?

Think “Cool & Comfort”  

  • Move the person to a cool and shaded area or air conditioned place
  • Have the person sit and rest
  • Have them drink water or sports drink (be mindful about offering sport drinks, which have a high sugar content, to diabetics)
  • Find an object to fan the person with
  • Stay and comfort the person

Learn more about how to prevent heat stress >