Summer Heat-Related Illness

Baseball games, days on the lake, backyard cookouts, and weekends at the campground. There’s plenty to do during the summer, and many people find that they spend more time outdoors this time of year. Of course, spending time outside during the hottest part of the year poses some health risks.

Heat-related illness can be very serious. It’s important to recognize the causes and symptoms of heat-related illness, and know what to do about them.

Heat related illnesses


While not specifically a heat-related illness, dehydration is something to be mindful of during the summer. Hotter temperatures and increased physical exertion increases the risk for dehydration, and dehydration can lead to serious heat-related illnesses.

Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, decrease in urine output, dark color of urine, fatigue, dizziness, and disorientation. Prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water.

Heat cramps

Heat cramps result from prolonged physical activity in hot temperatures. Excessive loss of water and sodium through sweating causes pain, cramps, or spasms in muscles.

It’s important to stay hydrated and also replenish electrolytes in order to prevent heat cramps.

Heat exhaustion

Excessive loss of water and sodium through sweating or overexertion can cause heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, nausea, weakness, disorientation, and thirst.

Heat rash

Skin irritations caused by sweating are called heat rash. Keeping rashes cool and dry, or using powders or ointments, can help rashes heal.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature. Body temperature increases, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness, and it can be fatal or cause permanent brain damage.

Call 911 immediately if you suspect that someone is suffering heat stroke.

Heat syncope

Fainting due to heat is called heat syncope, and is often cause by dehydration or a lack of acclimation to hot environments.


Heat stress and prolonged physical exertion may result in rhabdomyolysis. This causes the muscles to rupture or die, which releases proteins into the blood. This condition may cause seizures and arrhythmias.

Sun poisoning

Severe sun burns – sometimes known as sun poisoning – can cause fever, chills, and rash.


Getting rest, staying cool, staying hydrated, and limiting exposure to the sun can help prevent heat-related illnesses. Here’s some information from the CDC for recognizing the symptoms of heat-related illness and what to do about heat-related illnesses.