People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies cannot properly cool themselves by sweating. Sweating is the body’s natural air conditioning, but when a person’s body temperature rises rapidly, sweating just isn’t enough. Heat-related illnesses can be serious and life threatening. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs, and can cause disability and even death. Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable.
- Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It happens when the body’s temperature rises quickly and the body cannot cool down. Heat Stroke can cause permanent disability and death.
- Heat Exhaustion is a milder type of heat-related illness. It usually develops after a number of days in high temperature weather and not drinking enough fluids.
- Heat Cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during demanding activity. Sweating reduces the body’s salt and moisture and can cause painful cramps, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
Who’s at Risk?
Those at highest risk include the elderly, the very young, people with mental illness and people with chronic diseases. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in demanding physical activities during hot weather. Other conditions that can increase your risk for heat-related illness include obesity, fever, dehydration, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug or alcohol use.