Treating Heat Related Illnesses

Heat related illness that requires attention typically come on in three stages, although progression through the first stage can happen quickly enough to not even cause alarm.  In any event, all three stages are considered emergencies and must be addressed as soon as any one stage is recognized.


  • Typically occur when an individual is active in a  hot or warm and humid climate, but can happen without activity​​​
  • Most likely in overweight adults, elderly adults, and people drinking alcohol
  • Specific physiological cause is not clear, but thought to be related to electrolyte depletion (sodium, potassium, calcium, and/or magnesium)
  • Drinking large amounts of plain water while sweating significantly will reduce the level of sodium in your body and may precipitate heat cramps.

Symptoms of HEAT CRAMPS

  • Generalized muscle pain and tightness may present first
  • Painful, brief muscle cramps which may or may not cause muscles to spasm or jerk involuntarily
  • May occur during strenuous activity but also present a few hours later
  • Typically involve the calf muscles, thighs, biceps, and shoulders.

Treatment for HEAT CRAMPS

  • Remove the victim from the hot, humid environs if possible.
  • Rest
  • Hydrate with electrolyte containing fluids rather than plain water
    • Gatorade, Powerade, bullion cube (high salt content) dissolved in warm water and cooled
    • Dissolve a teaspoon of table salt in 8 0z of water and drink slowly, repeat in one hour
    • ​Banana's are high in potassium. If you have a salt-substitute in your galley, they typically are good sources of potassium also


  • ​​​​ Typically occurs when heat cramps are ignored, or untreated, and continued activity in a hot, humid environment
  • Heat Exhaustion is a serious medical emergency and must be recognized and treated quickly to avoid heat stroke and death 

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Muscle cramping and spasms
  • Increased heart rate
  • Extreme Thirst
  • ​Heavy sweating
  • pale skin
  • ​dizziness
  • mild confusion
  • increased irritability

​Treatment for ​HEAT EXHAUSTION

  • Moe to cooler area, out of direct sunlight
  • ​Loosen clothing
  • Apply cool, wet towels to face, neck, chest, and limbs
  • Use a fan to cool the victim if possible
  • Drink small amounts of cool water, sports drinks, or re-hydration fluids every 15 min
  • Get evaluated by a medical professional if symptoms do not begin improving within 30 minutes or if symptoms worsen in spite of treatment attempts


  • ​Heat Stroke is a life-threatening emergency and requires rapid, professional medical intervention for improved chances of survival

​Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • With heat stroke, all the symptoms of heat exhaustion may be present plus:
    • Body temp of 104F or higher
    • Irrational behavior or hallucinations
    • confusion
    • rapid, shallow breathing
    • rapid, weak pulse
    • seizures
    • loss of consciousness
    • dry skin

Treatment of HEAT STROKE

You must contact emergency services as soon as possible. Move the person to a shaded location, with air conditioning if available. Loosen clothing. Remove any sweaty clothing. Apply cool, wet towels to the face, neck, chest, and and limbs. Apply ice if available to the underarms, wrists, and groin. Fan the skin of possible. If the person is conscious offer constant sips of cool water.

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