Beat the Heat: How to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses

Ideally, we’d all love to dive into a pool whenever it’s unbearably hot, but our busy lifestyles make that a bit challenging. And anyone—young, old, healthy, and sick can fall prey to heat-related illnesses when they are unable to deal with humidity. Normally, the body cools itself by sweating, however, when humidity is high, the body’s temperature can increase quickly. When this happens, the brain or other vital organs can suffer damage. Some other factors can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, including dehydration, sunburn, obesity, age, fever, mental conditions, cardiovascular disease, poor blood circulation as well as alcohol use.

Heat-related illnesses may include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke, heat rash, and sunburn.



Heat Exhaustion

This is a somewhat mild type of heat-related illness resulting from an excessive exposure to high temperatures and dehydration. It is the body’s way of protesting the excessive loss of fluid and salt present in sweat. The aged, hypertensive, and people who exercise in hot environments are more prone to heat exhaustion.

Some of the tell-tale signs of heat exhaustion include fainting, paleness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, moist skin, fast or weak pulse, weakness, muscle cramps, excessive sweat, fast or shallow breathing, and fatigue.

If left untreated or attended to, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke. So, for effective cooling measures, you can sufferers can try resting, taking a cool shower, drinking cool nonalcoholic beverages, wearing light clothing, and being in an air-conditioned environment. It is, however, advisable to seek medical help if symptoms become severe.


Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are common with people who sweat excessively during strenuous activity which reduces the body’s fluid and salt. When the body’s salt level is in the muscles, it may result in heat cramps. And in fact, heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramps are simply muscle spasms or pains that usually occur in the arms, abdomen, or legs due to strenuous activity. People with heart issues should seek medical help for heat cramps.

If you consider medical attention unnecessary, then drink some fluid, sit quietly in a cool area, and avoid strenuous activities until cramps subside.



Heat Stroke

When the body’s temperature rises to over 105° F within 10-15 minutes and there is a brain dysfunction, then it could just be heat stroke. It usually happens when the body finds it challenging to balance its temperature. The body’s temperature then increases rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body finds it difficult to cool down. Heat stroke can result in permanent disability or even death not treated in time.

Some of the warning signs of heat stroke may include dizziness, unconsciousness, strong or weak pulse, high body temperature, nausea, and severe headaches.

People who experience any of these signs should see a doctor immediately and be kept in an air-conditioned area in the meanwhile. Other things to try out are placing ice packs on the different parts of the body, fan the body vigorously, or have a cool shower.

In a case where a person’s muscles begin to twitch uncontrollably due to heat stroke, do not place any anything in the mouth to prevent self-injury. Turn sufferers on their side to open the airways, if there is vomiting.



Heat Rash

This is a skin irritation brought on by excessive sweating during hot weather. It may happen at any age but young children are more prone to it.

Heat rash appears like tiny blisters or a red cluster of pimples and is more likely to be on the neck, upper chest, under the breasts, in the groin, and elbow.

To treat heat rash, sufferers should remain in dry, cooler, less humid areas. Also, apply dusting powder to the affected areas to reduce discomfort.




Sunburns are damages to the skin and should be avoided as much as possible. While the discomfort is usually mild and healing takes about a week, more severe sunburn may need medical attention.

It is best to consult a medical professional if the sunburn happens to an infant younger than a year old or if symptoms like severe pain, blisters, and fever occur.

Also, remember that to prevent sunburn, you need to avoid excessive exposure to the sun, apply cool water to the sunburned area, avoid breaking the blisters, and apply moisturizing lotion to the affected areas.


In summary, preventing heat-related illness really starts with doing the following:

  • Staying cool indoors as much as possible in air-conditioned rooms or any heat-relief shelters.
  • Taking cool showers or baths or moving to cool off.
  • Maintaining a cooler temperature in the home.
  • Cutting down on exercise during the humid weather.
  • Wear Sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher as sunburn can lead to dehydration and reduce the body’s ability to cool down.
  • Stay away from hot meals as they can add heat to the body.
  • Drink more fluids and avoid alcoholic and sugary drinks.

Finally, never leave children in a parked car, even if the windows are open as this can lead to heat stroke or even death.