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Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses

More than 650 people die annually from heat-related illnesses, even though these deaths and illnesses are preventable. These illnesses result from exposure to extreme heat. It causes a rise in body temperature where it can no longer cool itself properly.

This summer, it is essential to protect yourself against heat-related illnesses. Read on to learn about the signs, symptoms, and types of heat-related illnesses you can experience.

What is a Heat-Related Illness?

Heat-related illness results from prolonged exposure to high heat and humidity. When there is no relief from the heat or a lack of fluid intake, heat illness can set in. It can happen while working or exercising outside.

Between 2004-2018, there were 10,257 deaths from heat-related conditions. Of these deaths, around 70% occurred in males. Arizona, California, and Texas accounted for one-third of all heat-related deaths during this time.

Types of Heat-Related Illnesses

Heat-related illnesses range from mild to severe. There are five main types of heat-related illnesses to look out for.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a mild form of heat illness resulting in itchy, swollen skin. It occurs with prolonged exposure to hot and humid weather. It is also called prickly heat.


A sunburn is caused by overexposure to UV rays from the sun. It causes reddening and inflammation of the skin. In severe cases, it causes blisters and peeling.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are a mild form of heat illness. The body will experience painful muscle spasms and cramps. It occurs most often after vigorous exercise or sweating in high heat.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when there is a loss of water and salt from the body. It results from excessive sweating in extreme heat without proper fluid and salt replacement. The body is no longer able to cool itself when this happens.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most severe type of heat-related illness. It is the result of the body’s temperature-regulating system being overwhelmed by the heat. It requires immediate emergency medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms

Though the symptoms of sunburn and heat rash are obvious because they appear on your skin, the signs of more severe heat illness may be harder to spot. Look out for these signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion. These symptoms need immediate attention.

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps or aches
  • Excessive thirst
  • Confusion and anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Slow or weak heartbeat
  • Heavy sweating with cold, clammy skin
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness or fainting

The signs and symptoms of heat stroke should be taken seriously. They need immediate medical treatment.

  • Elevated body temperature (103 degrees F or higher)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Hot, red, dry skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low urination
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions

When to Go to the ER for Heat-Related Illnesses

As the temperatures start to rise, be prepared for heat exposure. Look out for early signs of heat illness before they turn severe. If you notice any severe signs of heat-related illness, go to your local emergency room in San Antonio, TX.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be deadly and should be treated as such. Do not delay in getting emergency medical treatment for severe heat-related illnesses.


Fowler DR, Mitchell CS, Brown A, Pollock T, Bratka LA, Paulson J, Noller AC, Mauskapf R, Oscanyan K, Radcliffe R, Vaidyanathan A, Wolkin A, Taylor EV. Heat-related deaths after an extreme heat event — four states, 2012 and United States, 1999–2009. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2013:62(22):433–436.

Ambarish Vaidyanathan, PhD1; Josephine Malilay, PhD1; Paul Schramm, MS, MPH1; Shubhayu Saha, PhD1. Heat-Related Deaths — United States, 2004-2018. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. June 19, 2020 / 69(24);729–734