Know Your Heat-related Illnesses

Getting Outdoors in Hot Weather: Know Your Heat-related Illnesses

Summertime has always been hot, but with worldwide temperatures trending ever higher, you may be wondering how to still enjoy the outdoors when you see those heat records breaking. Use this blog to learn the major hazards of exercising in hot weather.


While most of us are used to worrying about sunburn—and sunburn can be dangerous—there are also some heat-related illnesses that you can develop, and some of them can be life threatening.

To help you stay safe, this blog post will discuss symptoms and treatment for three heat-related illnesses:

  1. Heat cramps
  2. Heat exhaustion
  3. Heat stroke

What Causes Heat-Related Illness?

When it’s hot and humid outside, your body is trying to cool itself but simply cannot compensate, especially if you are exerting yourself in more extreme temperatures. So, your body temperature is rising dangerously and you’re losing fluids through sweating and dehydration.

Under this stress, your body starts to progressively shut down, causing heat-related illness.

Luckily, heat-related illnesses tend to develop in stages, so if you learn the symptoms, you can identify and treat them before the situation becomes life threatening.

What Are the Heat-related Illnesses?

The most common heat-related illnesses are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat cramps are the first indicator of being in danger in hot weather. If not treated, cramping can turn to heat exhaustion, which can finally lead to heat stroke.

Keep in mind that toughing it out in hot weather can be quite dangerous, and the best time to treat these heat-related health issues is as soon as you see symptoms develop.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an extensive list of symptoms and treatments for heat-related illnesses, but we’ll just share a simplified version below.

Let’s start with the lesser hazards and move to the more extreme.

Heat Cramps

  • How to Recognize Heat Cramps: Symptoms of heat cramps are exactly what they sound like: Muscle cramps, usually in legs or abdomen.
  • Treatment of Heat Cramps: Begin by massaging the cramping muscles and having the patient sip water. If patient is nauseated, they should NOT drink water.

Heat Exhaustion

  • How to Recognize Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, thirst, heavy sweating, nausea, and weakness.
  • Treatment of Heat Exhaustion: You need to move quickly if someone shows symptoms of heat exhaustion. Move the patient to a cooler area, loosen clothing, and have them sip cool water.

Remember, heat exhaustion can be life threatening and lead to heat stroke. If the patient’s symptoms do not improve, seek medical attention.

Heat Stroke

  • How to Recognize Heat Stroke: Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, feeling dizzy, and at the extreme, becoming unconscious.
  • Treatment of Heat Stroke: Heat stroke can lead to death or permanent disability. If someone shows signs of heat stroke, call 911 immediately. While waiting for medical help, move the patient to a cooler area, loosen their clothing, and cool their body with water or ice.

As the Earth’s climate changes and temperatures become more extreme, we should all be mindful of the ways in which our bodies will be affected. Though we recommend enjoying the outdoors, we hope you will stay safe by learning the hazards of heat-related illnesses and by taking appropriate steps to protect yourself.