Two common problems when the temperatures go up are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body's temperature rises quickly, but the body is unable to cool down (by sweating). Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not received.
Warning signs of heat stroke may include:
- an extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
- dizziness, nausea, and confusion
- red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- rapid, strong pulse
- throbbing headache
Heat exhaustion is the body's response to losing too much water and salt (through sweat). Those most likely to develop heat exhaustion are elderly people and people working or exercising in a hot environment.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion vary, but may include:
- heavy sweating
- muscle cramps
- nausea or vomiting
- paleness, tiredness, dizziness
What to Do
If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim:
Call 911 as soon as possible
Get the victim to a shady area
Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place in a cool shower; spray with cool water from a garden hose; sponge with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously
Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F
If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions
Do not give the victim alcohol to drink
Sometimes a victim's muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.
These self-help measures are not a substitute for medical care but may help you recognize and respond promptly to warning signs of trouble. Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.
If you have any questions, please contact the City Health Officer, Dr. Mitchel Kushner, at 562-570-4047, or visit or tips page on preventing heat illness