Heat-Related Illness in Hot Environments

August 2018 Safety Topic

August 1, 2018
strawberry ice cream melting on a cone
Feel like you're melting? Take action to protect yourself during heat waves.

As the summer continues, heat waves can occur, and for employees working outdoors or in hot indoor environments, that heat can lead to serious illness. Thousands of workers suffer heat illness each year. When heat exhaustion or heat stroke occurs, workers may face serious illness or even death.  

Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can occur after you've been exposed to high temperatures, and it often is accompanied by dehydration. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Excessive thirst
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Weakness
  • Drenching sweats, often accompanied by cold, clammy skin or a sensation of prickly skin
  • Dizziness

Heatstroke, also called sunstroke, is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body's temperature is 104ºF or higher, and it is a life-threatening medical emergency.  The symptoms of heat stroke are as follows:

  • Hot, dry skin
  • A racing heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
cyclist drinking from a water bottle
Make sure to hydrate properly and take frequent breaks to protect yourself in the heat.

The following strategies can help protect you against heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

  • Drink an extra 2–4 cups of water every hour while exposed to high temperatures
  • Take frequent breaks when working outdoors on hot days (inform your supervisor beforehand)
  • Relocate to a shaded or cooler area
  • Place a cold wet cloth or ice on head, neck, and armpits

For more information or questions about heat-related illness in hot environments, please speak with your supervisor or contact a member of the Campus Life Safety and Regulatory Compliance team.