Each year in the United States, excessive heat exposure causes more deaths than hurricanes, lightning, tornados, floods, and earthquakes combined. Most heat-related deaths occur during the summer. To protect yourself and others, be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death.

Know the signs of heat stress, such as:

  • blurred vision
  • confusion, erratic behavior
  • dizziness
  • fainting, collapse
  • heavy sweating
  • muscle spasms
  • pale, clammy skin
  • weakness, fatigue

To avoid heat stress, take frequent breaks in a cool, shaded area and drink water. If symptoms appear serious, seek medical help.

At greater risk are the elderly, children, and people with certain medical conditions, including heart disease. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. Certain behaviors also put people at greater risk:

  • drinking alcohol
  • taking part in strenuous outdoor physical activities in hot weather
  • taking medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

Heat stress can be induced by high temperatures, heavy work loads, and the type of clothing being worn. The signs of heat stress are often overlooked by the victim. The individual may at first be confused or unable to concentrate, followed by more severe symptoms, such as fainting or collapsing. If heat stress symptoms occur, move the victim to a cool, shaded area, give him or her water, and immediately contact a supervisor or another individual to provide assistance.

On hot, humid days, workers need to be aware of the threat of heat exhaustion. Heat-related illnesses are preventable, and effective treatment is available if individuals are prepared to act quickly. It is important to know the signs of heat stress and the proper first aid to treat it. 

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