How To Survive Heat Related Illness

The human body experiences hyperthermia, or heat-related illness, when it reaches temperatures above 100° F. Taking proper preventative measures is the best way to avoid overheating, but it’s also important to know what to do if you’re in a situation that’s too hot for health. As average global temperatures continue to rise, it’s becoming increasingly important to know how to survive hyperthermia.

How To Avoid Heat Related Illness

Avoid taxing activities while staying out of the sun to stay healthy on hot days. If you must work during daylight hours, be sure to do it early in the cool hours of the morning or during dusk. Be sure to avoid the midday heat as much as possible, especially if you’re in a desert. If stranded, finding shade is of utmost importance in hot environments, but beware of the chill of desert nights.

It’s a good idea to wear loose, light colored clothing that protects all of your skin from the sun. Cotton is a great choice for wicking moisture, but don’t overlayer and make sure there is plenty of ventilation. A wide brimmed hat is great for protecting the head, neck, and face from the heat of UV radiation. Having a low fitness level when doing strenuous activity can also make a person overheat.

Always remember to stay well hydrated since it’s crucial for staying healthy. It’s also important to ingest some salt or salty food since this will help the body retain water, but remember that the body can become overheated even if you’ve been drinking plenty of fluids.

How To Treat Heat Related Illness

Heat Fatigue and Cramps

Excessive heat from solar rays or exercise can drain a person’s energy levels and cause muscle cramps. Symptoms include:

  • Severe Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Flushed or red skin
  • Muscle cramps and pain

Treat heat exhaustion by discontinuing activity and getting out of the sun to rest. Drink plenty of fluids and take salt if it’s available. Cool the body with blowing air and/or water.

Heat Exhaustion

Muscles need electrolytes to function properly, and heat related illness can occur even if you’ve been drinking plenty of water. Electrolytes leave the body through sweat, so stay cool and avoid perspiring. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Dark urine
  • Swelling of the feet or hands

Treating heat exhaustion is the same as before: rest in a shady place while drinking plenty of fluids and electrolytes. Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke if left untreated.

Heat Stroke

Also called sun stroke, this illness if very serious and requires medical attention as soon as possible. The body’s temperature at this stage is 104° F. The symptoms include:

  • Little or no perspiration
  • A hot, flushed face
  • Fast, deep breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Strong, rapid pulse or weak, shallow pulse
  • Apathetic or aggressive behavior

Treatment involves cooling the body as quickly as possible with ice or water that is focused on the head, neck, and chest. If the body continues to heat up, unconsciousness, seizures, and death may occur.


No matter how mild the symptoms, never let heat illness go untreated since it will likely escalate into heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or possibly death. Many people ignore the first signs of serious heat related illness, so know what to look for and keep your first aid skills up-to-date.

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