Heat-Related Illness


What is heat illness?

When you get warm, your body sweats to cool itself. As it gets warmer, your body must sweat more. As the sweat on your body evaporates (dries up in the breeze), your body gets cooler. If the weather is hot and also humid, your sweat can't evaporate very well. So, as the humidity goes up, your body doesn't cool off as well. This means that your body's internal temperature begins to rise. When you can't sweat enough to cool your body, you might get a heat illness. Heat illness may cause you to feel tired, to have muscles that are weak, tired or cramping, and to have dizziness, nausea, vomiting or headache. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sunstroke are different heat illnesses. They occur when your body isn't able to keep itself cool enough.

How can I avoid getting a heat illness?

To decrease your risk of heat illness, follow these tips:

  • Stay in air conditioning if possible.
  • Drink lots of water before, during and after any outdoor activity.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Increase the amount of time you spend outdoors every day little by little.
  • Take a lot of rest breaks while outdoors in hot weather.
  • Avoid direct sunlight and stay in the shade when you can.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, open-weave clothes.
  • Avoid activities that require you to wear a helmet.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
  • NEVER leave anyone—a person or animal—in a closed, parked vehicle. This is life threatening.
  • Try to schedule activities or workouts early in the morning or late in the evening. Avoid heavy outdoor activity between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., when the sun is hottest.
  • Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on infants and young children; people aged 65 or older; people who have a mental illness, and those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure. Individuals with chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary may find that their conditions worsen during periods of high heat and humidity.

What should I do if I feel sick in the heat?

If you get symptoms of heat illness, such as cramps, nausea, headache or vomiting, take off as much clothing as possible and wet yourself with cool or lukewarm water. Drink some fluids. Stay in the shade or in air conditioning. You should see a doctor right away if you become confused, lose consciousness, vomit frequently, stop sweating or stop urinating.

Take into consideration your safety, and your employees' safety as it relates to heat illnesses. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a heat-related illness, call 443-9005 to consult with SU Health Services staff, or if you are experiencing an acute heat-related illness, contact emergency medical support at 443-2224.

For emergency medical assistance on campus, call (315) 443-4299.