Watch Out for Heat-Related Illness
Every year, an average of about 650 people die in the United States from illnesses related to excess heat. Illness and death can occur if your internal temperature rises so fast that the body’s sweating mechanism fails, so you can’t cool down.
Types of heat-related illness include heat exhaustion and – the most serious – heat stroke. Educating yourself about how to prevent and recognize heat-related illness can help to keep you and your loved ones safe in hot weather.
Here are answers to some common questions about heat-related illness.
Who is most at risk for serious illness from excess heat?
Some people are more likely to have problems with excess heat than others. High-risk groups include:
- Infants and young children
- People ages 65 or older
- People who are overweight
- People who overexert during work or exercise
- People with certain conditions, especially heart disease or high blood pressure
- People who take certain medications, such as those for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation
How can I prevent heat-related illness?
The most important way to fight heat-related illness is through prevention. During hot weather, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking these precautions:
- Drink more fluids, whether you are active or not.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing.
- Stay in air conditioning if possible – at home, the mall, a library or a health department shelter.
- Stay indoors in the middle of the day, when it’s hottest.
- Never leave people or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are partly open.
- If you work outside with others, use a buddy system to check on each other.
- If you exercise outdoors, rest in the shade more often than usual.
- If you sweat a lot, consider drinking a sports beverage to replace lost salt and minerals. (If you’re on a low-salt diet or have diabetes or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor first.)
What should I do if someone has heat-related illness?
It helps to be prepared in case someone you know has symptoms of heat-related illness. See the infographic below to learn the symptoms to watch for and steps to take.