Hot temperatures and high humidity are a dangerous mix that contributes to illness and death each year. On average, there are 400 heat-related deaths a year in the U.S.

While the elderly, people with health problems, and very young children are the most vulnerable, heat can affect anyone—even strong, healthy athletes can be stricken. Our bodies are cooled primarily by losing heat through the skin and perspiration with evaporation. When our core body heat gain exceeds the amount we can get rid of the body’s natural defense fails and heat-related illness may develop.

Possible heat disorders

for people in higher risk groups

• Heat Index of 130 or higher: Heatstroke or sunstroke highly likely with continued exposure.

• Heat Index of 105- 130: Sunstroke, heat cramps or heat exhaustion likely and heatstroke possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.

• Heat Index of 90- 105: Sunstroke, heat cramps and heat exhaustion possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.

• Heat Index of 80 - 90: Fatigue possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical acitivity.

Heat cramps

Heat Cramps is a condition that is marked by sudden development of cramps in skeletal muscles and that result from prolonged work or exercise in high temperatures accompanied by profuse perspiration (sweat) with loss of sodium chloride (salt) from the body. Cramps are often the very first sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.

When heat cramps occur: Get to a cooler place; rest in a comfortable position; Lightly stretch muscles; Drink water every 15 minutes.

Heat ehaustion

Heat Exhaustion is a condition marked by weakness, nausea, dizziness, and profuse sweating that results from physical exertion in a hot environment. Blood flow to skin increases, while blood flow to vital organs decreases. Heat exhaustion can cause a form of mild shock. If not treated, the condition will get worse, the body temperature will keep rising and heat stroke may occur.

Signs of Heat exhaustion: Cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, exhaustion and body temperature may be normal but most likely will be rising

When heat exhaustion occurs, get the person to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool wet cloths. If conscious, give cool water to drink every 15 minutes. Rest in a comfortable position and watch carefully for changes in condition

Heat stroke

Heatstroke (also called sunstroke) is a life threatening condition marked especially by cessation of sweating, extremely high body temperature, and collapse that result from prolonged exposure to high temperature. A heat stroke victim’s temperature control system stops working and cannot produce sweat to cool the body. Brain damage and death will result if the body temperature continues to rise and the body is not cooled quickly.

If you suspect heatstroke call 911 or your local emergency number immediately and move the person to a cooler place– help is needed fast,

Signs of heatstroke: Hot, red skin,changes in consciousness, rapid, weak pulse, rapid, shallow breathing and body temperature as high as 105. If the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin may be wet, otherwise it will feel dry.

Source: Arkansas Department of Health.