Written by Connie Hogue, Director of Human Resources and Safety
The human body regulates its temperature through sweating, which happens until it’s exposed to more heat than it can handle. People who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can quickly become serious, resulting in delirium, organ damage and even death. People most at risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke include infants and young children, people 65 and older, people who are ill, have chronic health conditions, or are on certain medications.
Heatstroke is a condition caused by the body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures and high humidity. This most serious form of heat injury occurs when your body temperature rises to 103˚ F or higher.
Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death. Call 911 immediately if you suspect heatstroke.
Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.
Heat cramps tend to impact people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture levels. Low salt levels in muscles causes painful cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
Unprotected skin can be damaged by the
sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays in as little as 15 minutes. However, it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), even a few serious sunburns can increase the risk of getting skin cancer.
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It typically appears as a red cluster of small blisters.