Learn the Signs of Heat Emergencies

While many people look forward to enjoying the outdoors in summer, the hot summer months can also pose health and safety risks.

Heat emergencies are health emergencies caused by exposure to hot weather and sun. Many people know them as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Children and older adults are more vulnerable to heat emergencies.

Children often do not recognize the warning signs of heat emergencies, and young children don’t sweat as much as adults, putting them at higher risk for issues.

Older adults tend not to adjust well to sudden increases in temperature. Seniors may also have chronic medical conditions that change normal body response to heat, and they are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control temperature.

From 2004–2018, an average of 702 heat-related deaths occurred in the United States each year.

Time is of the essence when someone is experiencing a heat emergency.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness, tiredness, and weakness
  • Fainting (passing out)


Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • High body temperature
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, confusion, losing consciousness (passing out)


How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

  • Stay cool in an air-conditioned building, or contact your local health department to locate an air-conditioned shelter near you
  • Stay hydrated by drinking more than usual and do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. (Consult your clinician if you are on limited amounts of fluid.)
  • Wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored clothing
  • Avoid strenuous activity and get plenty of rest
  • Check on neighbors and friends who may be vulnerable
  • Watch your local news for health and safety updates
  • Never leave infants, children, and older adults in a parked car, even with windows open

By taking a few small steps, you can enjoy the dog days of summer safely.

This post was written by the Trauma Program Injury Prevention Team