What should I know about Heat-related illnesses?

Basically, your body is too hot and you can’t cool down. These illnesses can be severe or mild. There are three kinds of heat illness: Heat Stroke-the most severe and dangerous; Heat Exhaustion-the most common that we see in the clinics; and, Heat Cramps: the mildest.


You get cramps in the calf muscles and the abdomen (the so-called “stitch”). To prevent these you should stretch your muscles before exercise and drink plenty of fluids. Electrolyte solutions, like sports drinks help replace lost salt.


This is more advanced than cramps. Now you may feel dizzy, nauseated, fatigued, nervous, and confused. You need shade, air conditioning, cold water, cold wet towels on your body, and cool drinks. If confused or have a fever, someone should get you to the ER.


This is life-threatening. Your temperature is high, you are confused, and you are hot but not sweating. Someone should call 911 right away. While waiting for the ambulance, treat as for heat exhaustion.


How can I prevent heat-related illnesses from happening?

Drink 11/2 to 2 cups of fluid before strenuous activity. Drink 2-4 cups of fluid per 1 hour of activity. You should exercise in the early morning or at night. Wear light clothes. Check the Heat Index Chart online.


How do you know if you are susceptible to heat-related illness?

Anyone is susceptible but some worse than others such as:

  • Those who drink alcohol in excess
  • Heart disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Those who are very young or very old
  • Fever
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Low in potassium
  • Obesity
  • Sunburn
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
  • Uncontrolled thyroid problem
  • On medications: diuretic and sedatives
  • Drinking caffeine

Melvin Lee MD
Chief Medical Officer, FastMed Urgent Care

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