Overview on heat illness

Heat illness occurs once the body is overly heated, usually when outdoors in warm, humid weather. Take that there are various forms of heat illness – heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Risk factors

  • Elderly
  • Being overweight
  • Working in warm environments
  • Diagnosed with heart disease
  • High blood pressure or a chronic condition

What is the cause?

Heat illness is likely to occur after prolonged exposure to warm temperatures. It can also develop if working in extremely warm environments, having high fever, being sick or exercising strenuously.

heat illness

Once the body turns hotter and could not cool down, the symptoms will worsen.

Eating too much, being overly dressed, not drinking enough fluids or excessive alcohol ingestion can also cause overheating.

What are the indications?

Once the body turns hotter and could not cool down, the symptoms will worsen. Initially, the individual becomes dehydrated and experiences heat cramps or have other signs of minor heat illness. If not treated, the symptoms can worsen, and the condition can progress to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

  • Heat cramps – it causes muscle pain or spasms, usually in the arm, leg or stomach muscles. Other symptoms include fainting, mild swelling and heat rash.
  • Heat exhaustion – the signs include weakness, dizziness, muscle aches, nausea or vomiting, headache and increased sweating
  • Heatstroke – this is a dangerous form of heat illness where the body temperature rises quickly to 104 degrees F or higher and the heat-regulating system of the body malfunctions. Some of the signs include seizures, lack of sweating, confusion, disorientation, agitation, erratic behavior, damage to the organs and coma.

Management of heat illness

If not promptly treated, a minor case of heat illness can become severe and progress to the serious forms.

For a minor case of heat illness, the treatment includes:

  • Increased intake of fluids
  • Massage of the cramping areas
  • Stretching of the affected muscles

The cramping quickly settles if a sports drink is provided.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on heat illness is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how it is managed, register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.

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