Heat illness is best understood in three separate degrees of severity: heat crampsheat exhaustion, and the most serious and deadly form, heat stroke. That is why it’s important to recognize the warning signs of dehydration and heat illness:

Noticeable Thirst



Lightheaded or Dizziness

Muscle Cramps

Decreased Performance


Difficulty Paying Attention


Caused by the loss of electrolytes

  • Stop activity
  • Rest in a cool spot
  • Replenish with fluids containing sodium


Caused by excessive sweating.

Symptoms include

  • fatigue
  • light headedness
  • rapid pulse
  • nausea
Treatment of heat exhaustion is similar to that of dehydration and should take place immediately. This treatment includes:

  • Rest in a cool, shaded area and place ice cold towels on the body
  • Drink a sports drink that contains the adequate amount of electrolytes
  • Lie down with legs elevated to promote circulation

If dehydration goes untreated, the likelihood of heat exhaustion may increase. Eventually, fatigue and exhaustion will occur because you can no longer support physical exertion and core body temperature control at the same time.


Symptoms heat stroke include:

  • Very high core body temperature (104 or higher)
  • Altered Central Nervous System function (i.e. confusion or unconsciousness, altered mental status, feeling out-of-sorts, extreme lethargy)
  • Otherwise healthy individual collapses during intense exercise/activity in the heat.
The important thing to remember is that heat stroke must be treated immediately. Call 911 and begin treatment.

  • Cool first. Then transport to hospital.
  • Immediate cool down by whatever means possible
  • An ice bath in a “cool pool” is preferable due to the superior cooling rates
  • Ice packs over as much of the body as possible
  • A cool shower
  • Cool, wet towels
  • Water spray
  • Transport a suspected heat stroke to the hospital

Do not drink fluids since nausea and vomiting are extremely common. Remove from cooling source when temperature is lowered to 102 degrees F.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency, when it is not recognized promptly and treated properly it can result in death. If rapid cooling does not occur, cellular damage to organs could be extreme and have fatal consequences.